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Change in ground cover levels

Key Finding

Ground cover in grazing lands across Queensland declined in 2019 compared to the long-term mean, broadly reflecting decreased average annual rainfall across the state in recent years. More than two-thirds of Queensland was wholly or partly drought declared by the end of 2019.

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Natural Resource Management Area (select locations to filter information)

Queensland

Ground cover is defined as the vegetation (living and dead), biological crusts and stone that are in contact with the soil surface. Ground cover is a key component of many soil processes, including infiltration, run-off and surface erosion. Low ground cover can lead to soil erosion which contributes to increased sediment loads reaching waterways, and loss of productivity for grazing enterprises. Implementing appropriate and sustainable land management practices, particularly careful management of grazing pressure, can help to maintain or improve ground cover, reducing erosion and improving the stability and resilience of the landscape.

Mean ground cover across the grazing lands of Queensland was 57% in 2019.

This is below the long-term (1987–2019) mean of 64% and the lowest mean late dry season ground cover reported for the state in 3 decades.

It likely reflects lower than average annual rainfall over the past 3 years.

About 84% of Queensland was classified as grazing land in 2019 according to the most current mapping provided by the Queensland Land Use Mapping Program.

The Queensland Ground Cover Monitoring Program derives estimates of ground cover levels through the use of satellite imagery and field measurements of ground cover for calibration. Ground cover levels are reported for the 12 natural resource management regions of Queensland, with the data showing change in mean ground cover levels over an approximate 32-year period. These changes can broadly be attributed to patterns of climatic variability. It is important to note however, that averaging ground cover levels across whole regions can mask localised areas of lower cover which may be the result of land management impacts, soil fertility and localised climatic effects or other impacts (e.g. fire).

Further information relating to ground cover changes at the local scale can be accessed from a range of online visualisation and reporting tools and open data portals.

More Information:

Burdekin

The Burdekin region has a long-term (1987–2019) mean late dry season ground cover of 74%.

High rainfall in 2010 resulted in a mean late dry season ground cover of 91%, which then dropped to 64% in 2018 following 6 consecutive years of below average annual rainfall.

Above average rainfall in 2019 is reflected in a 5% increase in mean ground cover for the year to 69%.

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Burnett Mary

The mean long-term (1987–2019) late dry season ground cover was 85% for the Burnett Mary region.

Lower than average rainfall resulted in a drop in mean ground cover from 85% in 2018 to 77% in 2019.

It is the first time in the monitoring record that the ground cover in this region has been below 80%.

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Cape York

Ground cover in the Cape York region has been relatively stable due to the region’s reliably high annual rainfall.

In 2019, the late dry season mean ground cover mean was 79%, which is comparable to the long-term (1987–2019) mean of 81% ground cover.

The lowest level of ground cover recorded for the region was 74% in 1991; the highest was 90%, recorded in 2010.

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Desert Channels

The Desert Channels region receives the lowest annual rainfall in Queensland (average annual rainfall of 300mm), resulting in the lowest long-term (1987–2019) mean late dry season ground cover for the state of 49%.

In 2019, the mean late dry season ground cover was 45%, the lowest of all Natural Resource Management regions in Queensland.

This region is the largest in the state, covering about 30% of Queensland’s land mass. It includes several periodically inundated rivers and channels which flow to the Lake Eyre Basin.

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Fitzroy

The past decade has seen a decline of more than 25% in the mean late dry season ground cover for the Fitzroy region.

High rainfall in late 2010 resulted in ground cover peaking at 93%, however subsequent reduction in annual rainfall was followed by a decline in ground cover for the region.

The mean late dry season ground cover of 68% for 2019 is the lowest ground cover on record for the Fitzroy region.

The region was drought-affected in 2019.

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Mackay–Whitsunday

The Mackay–Whitsunday region had a mean late dry season ground cover of 85% for 2019.

This was the highest mean ground cover across all Queensland NRM regions for the year.

It is, however, below the long-term (1987–2019) mean ground cover of 88% for the region.

The high rainfall of late 2010 resulted in a high of 96% ground cover for the region, which declined to a low of 83% ground cover in 2018. Above average rainfall in 2019 increased the mean ground cover level by 2% for the year.

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Northern Gulf

The mean 2019 late dry season ground cover was 69% for the Northern Gulf region.

This is below the long-term (1987–2019) mean of 77% and a 3-decade low for the region.

Although rainfall has been relatively stable across the region in recent years, a large fire just prior to the late dry season reduced the mean ground cover for 2019.

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South East Queensland

Ground cover in the grazing lands of South East Queensland has been relatively stable throughout the time-series, with a long-term (1987–2019) mean late dry season ground cover of 87%.

High rainfall in late 2010 resulted in the highest level of ground cover at 93%, which subsequently declined to 77% cover in 2019 as rainfall decreased in the more recent drier period.

This is the lowest late dry season ground cover recorded for the region in more than 3 decades.

More Information:

Southern Gulf

The Southern Gulf region has had a long-term (1987–2019) mean late dry season ground cover of 62%.

Ground cover levels were at their highest in 2010 with 78% cover due to high rainfall.

Since then, ground cover levels have slowly declined.

The mean late dry season ground cover in 2019 was 54%.

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Southern Queensland

Southern Queensland grazing lands have experienced the greatest decline in late dry season ground cover over the past decade.

Years of below-average rainfall has resulted in the mean falling from a high of 83% ground cover in late 2010 to a low of 52% for 2019.

This is the lowest recorded mean ground cover for the region.

The long-term (1987–2019) mean late dry season ground cover for the region is 64%.

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Wet Tropics

With its very high average annual rainfall of more than 1,900mm, the Wet Tropics region has had a consistently high mean late dry season ground cover (86% long-term mean for 1987–2019).

There has been a gradual decline since 2010.

Despite average rainfall for both 2018 and 2019, the mean late dry season ground cover in 2019 was 82%.

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Joint management area

The 2019 mean late dry season ground cover was 74% for the Joint Management Area between the Cape York and Northern Gulf natural resource management regions.

This is below the 79% long-term (1987–2019) mean ground cover for the area, likely due to the lower than average annual rainfall in both 2017 and 2018.

Mean ground cover levels have been largely similar to the long-term mean throughout the time-series for this joint management area, ranging from a low of 72% in both 1990 and 2018, to 88% in 2010.

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Relevant Sustainable Development Goals’ targets

  • GOAL 15: LIFE ON LAND

Mean late dry season ground cover (%), 2019

  • Chart
  • Table
RegionGroundcover (%)All year mean
Burdekin68.874.0
Burnett Mary77.485.3
Cape York78.981.0
Desert Channels44.648.5
Fitzroy67.778.4
Mackay Whitsunday84.488.1
Northern Gulf68.976.7
South East Queensland77.087.2
Southern Gulf53.861.8
Southern Queensland51.763.8
Wet Tropics82.286.1
Joint management area74.078.7

Mean late dry season ground cover (%) across Queensland

  • Chart
  • Table
YearGroundcover (%)
198757.4
198855.2
198963.1
199065.0
199167.1
199260.4
199362.0
199460.4
199564.5
199660.9
199764.1
199869.0
199968.1
200072.2
200170.2
200262.1
200362.4
200461.3
200560.0
200659.2
200762.0
200861.2
200964.8
201079.8
201176.1
201273.0
201364.1
201462.0
201559.1
201665.7
201761.2
201856.8
201956.8

Mean late dry season ground cover (%) in Burdekin

  • Chart
  • Table
YearGroundcover (%)
198763.8
198865.3
198977.1
199076.2
199180.3
199270.1
199367.5
199465.7
199571.1
199665.3
199772.9
199884.9
199982.3
200083.3
200182.0
200272.3
200372.0
200467.5
200568.7
200666.9
200774.2
200878.2
200978.8
201091.3
201186.4
201284.4
201377.6
201473.6
201568.8
201671.6
201770.0
201864.0
201968.8

Mean late dry season ground cover (%) in Burnett Mary

  • Chart
  • Table
YearGroundcover (%)
198781.9
198880.3
198988.9
199088.0
199182.4
199286.8
199387.9
199484.9
199585.0
199686.4
199784.2
199889.3
199987.7
200082.3
200183.8
200283.3
200386.2
200485.9
200587.2
200682.7
200785.8
200887.6
200984.1
201093.5
201186.0
201289.4
201385.4
201480.7
201589.2
201681.6
201782.6
201885.1
201977.4

Mean late dry season ground cover (%) in Cape York

  • Chart
  • Table
YearGroundcover (%)
198776.6
198878.8
198979.4
199076.3
199174.2
199279.6
199382.7
199481.7
199584.6
199682.3
199780.6
199884.5
199981.6
200083.6
200180.8
200276.4
200381.2
200482.3
200580.9
200680.4
200783.8
200882.1
200980.7
201089.5
201181.4
201282.7
201383.0
201479.2
201582.4
201679.8
201781.2
201879.1
201978.9

Mean late dry season ground cover (%) in Desert Channels

  • Chart
  • Table
YearGroundcover (%)
198742.9
198838.3
198946.0
199051.9
199155.7
199246.4
199344.9
199444.9
199549.1
199642.7
199749.4
199850.2
199949.6
200061.1
200156.9
200248.8
200347.5
200445.1
200544.2
200641.1
200744.6
200840.2
200949.6
201066.5
201164.6
201258.4
201348.7
201446.3
201541.1
201654.4
201745.4
201840.4
201944.6

Mean late dry season ground cover (%) in Fitzroy

  • Chart
  • Table
YearGroundcover (%)
198772.5
198874.4
198984.8
199079.5
199179.2
199276.8
199375.9
199471.1
199575.3
199677.7
199777.1
199884.7
199984.1
200081.0
200181.0
200273.1
200376.6
200472.4
200576.3
200670.8
200779.3
200882.2
200978.5
201093.2
201187.2
201286.6
201379.6
201478.8
201579.9
201680.4
201777.1
201873.8
201967.7

Mean late dry season ground cover (%) in Mackay–Whitsunday

  • Chart
  • Table
YearGroundcover (%)
198783.9
198888.3
198990.9
199085.0
199184.5
199285.6
199389.6
199486.7
199588.3
199686.1
199788.2
199891.0
199989.8
200090.8
200190.1
200284.2
200387.7
200487.2
200588.7
200686.4
200791.3
200886.8
200990.6
201095.6
201192.4
201290.7
201388.9
201487.7
201588.0
201686.9
201787.2
201882.5
201984.4

Mean late dry season ground cover (%) in Northern Gulf

  • Chart
  • Table
YearGroundcover (%)
198766.4
198863.5
198975.0
199070.7
199176.0
199270.3
199377.5
199474.0
199581.9
199677.3
199777.0
199884.4
199984.0
200083.1
200181.2
200276.6
200376.4
200476.7
200572.1
200678.9
200779.9
200877.5
200978.8
201087.9
201186.5
201283.3
201372.4
201475.7
201573.2
201674.5
201777.2
201872.9
201968.9

Mean late dry season ground cover (%) in South East Queensland

  • Chart
  • Table
YearGroundcover (%)
198783.3
198888.9
198988.2
199089.7
199183.6
199290.1
199389.5
199485.2
199588.5
199690.2
199787.8
199890.2
199991.0
200084.8
200188.6
200283.9
200388.2
200487.6
200589.1
200688.1
200785.8
200888.9
200987.4
201093.4
201188.1
201288.0
201388.0
201481.4
201588.7
201682.3
201785.2
201885.8
201977.0

Mean late dry season ground cover (%) in Southern Gulf

  • Chart
  • Table
YearGroundcover (%)
198754.0
198844.6
198952.2
199052.9
199170.2
199258.1
199361.8
199461.9
199562.9
199655.0
199762.1
199865.4
199968.3
200071.3
200173.6
200260.6
200360.9
200461.8
200556.3
200668.1
200764.4
200856.7
200971.3
201077.8
201177.3
201272.9
201360.1
201458.6
201553.5
201656.4
201759.3
201855.1
201953.8

Mean late dry season ground cover (%) in Southern Queensland

  • Chart
  • Table
YearGroundcover (%)
198758.9
198862.0
198967.9
199073.0
199162.3
199256.6
199362.2
199459.3
199563.7
199665.8
199765.0
199873.9
199968.5
200070.8
200167.9
200259.1
200360.3
200461.7
200560.7
200654.1
200755.2
200862.7
200957.0
201083.4
201175.9
201275.5
201365.4
201461.9
201560.0
201670.3
201759.6
201854.5
201951.7

Mean late dry season ground cover (%) in Wet Tropics

  • Chart
  • Table
YearGroundcover (%)
198780.4
198880.7
198988.8
199084.3
199183.2
199284.3
199382.7
199479.7
199587.0
199684.9
199784.3
199889.9
199990.4
200091.2
200190.0
200283.7
200385.7
200484.9
200585.4
200687.0
200786.7
200887.8
200987.7
201095.3
201190.7
201289.7
201387.0
201485.2
201587.7
201685.2
201785.4
201883.0
201982.2

Mean late dry season ground cover (%) in Joint management area

  • Chart
  • Table
YearGroundcover (%)
198773.5
198872.9
198976.1
199072.0
199177.0
199276.4
199377.6
199479.4
199583.2
199679.2
199775.5
199885.8
199984.3
200079.9
200182.5
200275.4
200378.7
200477.8
200575.0
200680.2
200783.2
200880.3
200978.8
201088.3
201183.9
201281.3
201379.4
201479.6
201576.5
201676.7
201779.3
201872.0
201974.0

Download data from Queensland Government data

Metadata

Mean ground cover in the late dry season (Spring; September–November) in the Natural Resource Management regions across Queensland, measured each year from 1987 to 2019. Ground cover is derived from 2 remote-sensing products, Fractional Cover and Persistent Green, using Landsat imagery from 1987 to 2015, and Sentinel-2 imagery from 2016 onwards. These products have been processed at a spatial resolution of 30m.