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Condition of estuarine ecosystem health

Key finding

Queensland’s estuarine aquatic ecosystems vary significantly in condition. Some are in good to very good condition while others do not meet standards for water quality.

Queensland

Waterways in Queensland are in widely varying condition. Some estuaries are nearly untouched while others have been heavily impacted by historic land uses, development and poor land management practices. It is important that we protect estuarine environments while we work to rehabilitate and restore degraded areas.

Healthy Land and Water South East Queensland report card

The Healthy Land and Water Report Card reports on indicators of estuarine health across major catchment areas in South East Queensland (SEQ).

Queensland Government scientists collect data measuring water quality, fish, algae or nutrients are indicators of estuary health that help assess the overall condition of the waterway.

Substantial erosion from historic and current land management practices cause sediment or mud to enter waterways, particularly during rain. Sediment reduces water clarity, blocking out light for animal and plant life.

The 2017 report card used methodology from 2015 to calculate environmental grades, including the impact from sediment, habitat extent such as riparian vegetation, and the social and economic benefits of waterways. It also highlights management actions to improve waterway health. Each catchment was graded although no overall grade was assigned for Moreton Bay’s ecosystem health. Report card grades vary significantly across estuaries, ranging from ‘good’ to ‘poor’ condition, heavily affected by land use and development, with sediment a major pressure.

  • No estuary failed the environmental condition grade.
  • Caboolture catchment had the most intact estuarine habitat in SEQ in 2017.
  • Seagrass in Moreton Bay was growing at greater depths in 2017 due to improved water clarity.

More information:

    Great Barrier Reef report card

    The Great Barrier Reef report cards document progress toward meeting water quality and catchment indicator targets set through the Reef Water Quality Protection Plan from 2009 to 2017 and will subsequently be set through the Reef 2050 Water Quality Improvement Plan in 2018. Reported catchment indicators include changes in the extent of estuarine wetlands (mangroves and salt flats) every four years.

    The loss of mangroves/salt flats was 296ha (less than 0.1%) between 2009 and 2013, significantly more than the 60ha lost between 2005 and 2009. At 3.6%, Calliope catchment was the only catchment to record loss of more than 1% of its mangroves/salt flats between 2009 and 2013.

    More than 90% of pre-European extent of mangroves and salt flats remain in most catchments. The exceptions are Barron, Mulgrave, Russell, Pioneer, Boyne, Fitzroy, Shoalwater, Burnett and Kolan catchments.

    More information:

      Fitzroy Basin report card

      The Fitzroy River estuary supports healthy recreational and commercial fishing industries and has been developed with port facilities and salt works.

      Estuarine health is measured across three categories: physical/chemical; nutrient; ecology.

      Fitzroy Basin’s estuarine condition grades have steadily improved from 2010-2011. In 2015-2016, the Fitzroy Basin received B (‘good’) for aquatic ecosystem health with no change to the overall score compared to the previous year.

      Overall, the ecosystem health index in monitored streams in the estuary catchment was found to be in good condition this period with:

      • B’s for physical-chemical indicators
      • B’s for nutrient indicators
      • Scores ranged from B (‘good’) to D (‘poor’) for ecological indicators, and from B to C (‘fair’) for toxicant indicators.

      More information:

        Gladstone Harbour report card

        The Gladstone Healthy Harbour Partnership report card reports on the environmental, social, economic and cultural health of the Gladstone Harbour. The report card provides an overall grade for these elements and provides environmental grades for 8 estuaries that flow to Gladstone Harbour.

        The report card for 2016 gave an overall environmental health grade for the harbour of C (Satisfactory). Different geographic zones within the area scored varyingly from D (‘poor’) to B (‘good’). The environment score was comprised of scores for:

        • water and sediment —B
        • habitat –including coral and seagrass scores —D
        • fish and crabs —D.

        Both the Calliope River Estuary and the Boyne River Estuary received an A for water quality in 2015 and 2016.

        The pilot report card released in 2014 rated the harbour’s overall environmental health at C (‘satisfactory’).

        More information:

          Mackay–Whitsunday report card

          The 2016 Mackay-Whitsunday Report Card, released in October 2017, marked the second full report card for the region and reported environmental condition data from the 2015-2016 period, as well as stewardship data from 2016-2017.  It should be noted that some indicators are not reported every year (for example, habitat and hydrology indicators in freshwater and estuarine environments are updated every four years).

          In the 2016, estuaries that recorded an overall B (Good) score were:

          • Gregory River
          • Murray and St Helens Creek
          • Rocky Dam Creek
          • Vines Creek
          • Carmila Creek.

          Estuaries that recorded an overall C (Moderate) score were:

          • O’Connell River
          • Plane Creek
          • Sandy Creek

          In an improvement from the 2014 report card, no estuaries scored an overall D (‘poor’) in 2015 or 2016.

          In the 2016 report card, habitat and hydrology scores were generally ‘moderate’ to ‘good’: 2 estuaries (Carmila Creek and Gregory River) received ‘very good’ (A). This is an improvement on the 2014 report card in which the habitat and hydrology scores ranged from ‘good’ to ‘poor’.

          More information:

            Wet Tropics report card

            The Wet Tropics’ report cards assess the environmental health of its 8 estuaries—Daintree, Dixon Inlet, Barron, Trinity Inlet, Russell-Mulgrave, Johnstone, Moresby and Hinchinbrook Channel—based on water quality, habitat and hydrology, fish diversity and barriers to fish passage.

            Overall grades were assessed from the habitat and hydrology index and the water quality index for all estuaries except Dickson Inlet for which water quality data was unavailable. The overall score was lowest for the Barron and the Johnstone both of which were graded ‘moderate’. All other estuaries were graded ‘good’.

            In the 2017 report card, using data from June 2015 to June 2016, the freshwater and estuary areas all scored B’s and C’s apart from the Daintree freshwater area (A).

            In the 2015 report card, most of the Wet Tropics waterways were graded as C (‘moderate’).  It should be noted that methodology of grading changed between reportings.

            Below average to average rainfall for the year resulted in reduced river flows into the 8 estuaries.

            More information:

              Condamine Catchment report card

              Estuarine ecosystems not analysed in report card publication.

              More information:

              QCatchment Bulloo

              Estuarine ecosystems not analysed in report card publication.

              More information:

              QCatchment Paroo

              Estuarine ecosystems not analysed in report card publication.

              More information:

              QCatchment Warrego

              Estuarine ecosystems not analysed in report card publication.

              More information:

              QCatchment Nebine

              Estuarine ecosystems not analysed in report card publication.

              More information:

              QCatchment Lake Eyre

              Estuarine ecosystems not analysed in report card publication.

              More information:

              QCatchment Archer

              Estuarine ecosystems not analysed in report card publication.

              More information:

              QCatchment Coleman

              Estuarine ecosystems not analysed in report card publication.

              More information:

              QCatchment Ducie

              Estuarine ecosystems not analysed in report card publication.

              More information:

              QCatchment Endeavour

              Estuarine ecosystems not analysed in report card publication.

              More information:

              QCatchment Holroyd

              Estuarine ecosystems not analysed in report card publication.

              More information:

              QCatchment Jacky Jacky

              Estuarine ecosystems not analysed in report card publication.

              More information:

              QCatchment Jardine

              Estuarine ecosystems not analysed in report card publication.

              More information:

              QCatchment Jeannie

              Estuarine ecosystems not analysed in report card publication.

              More information:

              QCatchment Lockhart

              Estuarine ecosystems not analysed in report card publication.

              More information:

              QCatchment Normanby

              Estuarine ecosystems not analysed in report card publication.

              More information:

              QCatchment Olive–Pascoe

              Estuarine ecosystems not analysed in report card publication.

              More information:

              QCatchment Stewart

              Estuarine ecosystems not analysed in report card publication.

              More information:

              QCatchment Wenlock

              Estuarine ecosystems not analysed in report card publication.

              More information:

              Indicator: Condition of estuarine ecosystem health

              Condition of estuarine ecosystem health identified in various water quality report card areas across Queensland.

              Great Barrier Reef report card

              Overall grade applies to marine ecosystem health only.

              See also: Estuarine and marine ecosystems assessment summary.

              Healthy Land and Water South East Queensland report card

              Report card does not provide an overall grade.

              See also: Estuarine and marine ecosystems assessment summary.

              Fitzroy Basin report card

              Overall grade applies to freshwater and estuarine ecosystem health only.

              See also: Estuarine and marine ecosystems assessment summary.

              Gladstone Harbour report card

              Overall grade applies to estuarine and marine ecosystem health only.

              See also: Estuarine and marine ecosystems assessment summary.

              Mackay–Whitsunday report card

              Report card does not provide an overall grade.

              See also: Estuarine and marine ecosystems assessment summary.

              Condamine Catchment report card

              Estuarine ecosystems not analysed in report card publication.

              See also: Estuarine and marine ecosystems assessment summary.

              QCatchment Bulloo

              Estuarine ecosystems not analysed in report card publication.

              See also: Estuarine and marine ecosystems assessment summary.

              QCatchment Paroo

              Estuarine ecosystems not analysed in report card publication.

              See also: Estuarine and marine ecosystems assessment summary.

              QCatchment Warrego

              Estuarine ecosystems not analysed in report card publication.

              See also: Estuarine and marine ecosystems assessment summary.

              QCatchment Nebine

              Estuarine ecosystems not analysed in report card publication.

              See also: Estuarine and marine ecosystems assessment summary.

              Wet Tropics report card

              Estuarine ecosystems not analysed in report card publication.

              See also: Estuarine and marine ecosystems assessment summary.

              QCatchment Lake Eyre

              Estuarine ecosystems not analysed in report card publication.

              See also: Estuarine and marine ecosystems assessment summary.

              QCatchment Archer

              Estuarine ecosystems not analysed in report card publication.

              See also: Estuarine and marine ecosystems assessment summary.

              QCatchment Coleman

              Estuarine ecosystems not analysed in report card publication.

              See also: Estuarine and marine ecosystems assessment summary.

              QCatchment Ducie

              Estuarine ecosystems not analysed in report card publication.

              See also: Estuarine and marine ecosystems assessment summary.

              QCatchment Endeavour

              Estuarine ecosystems not analysed in report card publication.

              See also: Estuarine and marine ecosystems assessment summary.

              QCatchment Holroyd

              Estuarine ecosystems not analysed in report card publication.

              See also: Estuarine and marine ecosystems assessment summary.

              QCatchment Jacky Jacky

              Estuarine ecosystems not analysed in report card publication.

              See also: Estuarine and marine ecosystems assessment summary.

              QCatchment Jardine

              Estuarine ecosystems not analysed in report card publication.

              See also: Estuarine and marine ecosystems assessment summary.

              QCatchment Jeannie

              Estuarine ecosystems not analysed in report card publication.

              See also: Estuarine and marine ecosystems assessment summary.

              QCatchment Lockhart

              Estuarine ecosystems not analysed in report card publication.

              See also: Estuarine and marine ecosystems assessment summary.

              QCatchment Normanby

              Estuarine ecosystems not analysed in report card publication.

              See also: Estuarine and marine ecosystems assessment summary.

              QCatchment Olive–Pascoe

              Estuarine ecosystems not analysed in report card publication.

              See also: Estuarine and marine ecosystems assessment summary.

              QCatchment Stewart

              Estuarine ecosystems not analysed in report card publication.

              See also: Estuarine and marine ecosystems assessment summary.

              QCatchment Wenlock

              Estuarine ecosystems not analysed in report card publication.

              See also: Estuarine and marine ecosystems assessment summary.

              Report card grades in Healthy Land and Water South East Queensland report card

              No data available for this region.

              Report card grades in Fitzroy Partnership for River Health report card

              No data available for this region.

              Report card grades in Gladstone Harbour report card

              No data available for this region.

              Report card grades in Mackay–Whitsunday Healthy Rivers to Reef Partnership report card

              No data available for this region.

              Report card grades in Condamine Catchment report card

              No data available for this region.

              Report card grades in QCatchment Bulloo

              No data available for this region.

              Report card grades in QCatchment Paroo

              No data available for this region.

              Report card grades in QCatchment Warrego

              No data available for this region.

              Report card grades in QCatchment Nebine

              No data available for this region.

              Report card grades in Wet Tropics Healthy Waterways Partnership report card

              No data available for this region.

              Report card grades in QCatchment Lake Eyre

              No data available for this region.

              QCatchment Archer

              No data available for this region.

              QCatchment Coleman

              No data available for this region.

              QCatchment Ducie

              No data available for this region.

              QCatchment Endeavour

              No data available for this region.

              QCatchment Holroyd

              No data available for this region.

              QCatchment Jacky Jacky

              No data available for this region.

              QCatchment Jardine

              No data available for this region.

              QCatchment Jeannie

              No data available for this region.

              QCatchment Lockhart

              No data available for this region.

              QCatchment Normanby

              No data available for this region.

              QCatchment Olive–Pascoe

              No data available for this region.

              QCatchment Stewart

              No data available for this region.

              QCatchment Wenlock

              No data available for this region.

              Download data from Queensland Government data

              Last updated 8 January 2019

              Assessment summary

              See an overview of gradings for estuarine and marine ecosystems in the assessment summary.