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Report Card 2014

Key findings

Report Card 2014 incorporates significant improvements to the reporting methods and details progress towards the updated targets in the Reef Water Quality Protection Plan 2013. It assesses the combined results of all Reef Plan actions up to June 2014 as well as changes in riparian and wetland extent between 2009 and 2013.

Results show the need to accelerate the rate of change and drive innovation to meet the ambitious targets. However, not all activities undertaken during the reporting period are included so the results are considered a conservative estimate of progress.

  • As at June 2014 the area of land managed under best management practice systems for each industry across the Great Barrier Reef was:
    • sugarcane - approximately 13 per cent for nutrients (60,000 hectares), 30 per cent for pesticides (123,000 hectares) and 23 per cent for soil (101,000 hectares)
    • grazing erosion - approximately 28 per cent for pastures (8.6 million hectares), 47 per cent for streambanks (14.5 million hectares) and 24 per cent for gullies (7.4 million hectares)
    • horticulture - approximately 23 per cent for nutrients (20,000 hectares), 45 per cent for pesticides (39,000 hectares) and 71 per cent for soil (61,000 hectares).
  • The grains pesticide target was exceeded (91 per cent) in the Burdekin region.
  • Overall loss of wetlands continued between 2009 and 2013 (330 hectares, less than 0.1 per cent), although the rate of loss was lower than the previous periods.
  • Overall forest loss in riparian areas continued between 2009 and 2013 (31,000 hectares, 0.4 per cent), with an increased rate of loss compared to the previous periods.
  • The ground cover target was exceeded across all regions in 2013-2014. However, there were significant areas of low cover which pose a high risk for sediment loss, particularly in areas of the Burdekin and Fitzroy regions that were drought declared.
  • Modelled annual average load reductions across the Great Barrier Reef from 2009 to 2014 were:
    • sediment 12 per cent
    • particulate nitrogen 11.5 per cent
    • particulate phosphorus 14.5 per cent
    • dissolved inorganic nitrogen 17 per cent
    • pesticides 30.5 per cent.
    • the particulate phosphorus target was exceeded (20.5 per cent) in the Wet Tropics region.
  • The overall condition of the inshore marine environment remained poor in 2013-2014. Inshore seagrass showed signs of recovery in some regions, but remained in poor condition overall. Inshore coral reefs also remained in poor condition, although there were modest improvements in juvenile coral density.

Long-term progress towards catchment pollutant loads targets

The Reef Water Quality Protection Plan targets have become more detailed since they were first set in 2009 based on findings from the 2013 Scientific Consensus Statement. The relative priorities of individual pollutants were used to refine the Reef Plan 2013 targets.

The nitrogen target changed from total nitrogen to dissolved inorganic nitrogen in priority areas. The sediment target was expanded to include particulate nutrients (particulate nitrogen and particulate phosphorus) in priority areas.

The pesticide target increased and now reports overall toxic loads. Previously the toxicity of individual pesticides was not taken into account. Progress towards these targets since 2009 is assessed using modelling.

Graph data (.csv, 431 b)

Reef 2050 Long-Term Sustainability Plan

The Reef 2050 Long-Term Sustainability Plan is the Australian and Queensland governments' overarching framework for protecting and managing the reef from 2015 to 2050. It responds to the challenges facing the reef and presents actions to protect its Outstanding Universal Value while allowing ecologically sustainable development and use. Improving water quality is one of the themes of the plan and it incorporates the goal and targets of the Reef Water Quality Protection Plan.

Regional water quality relative risk and priority pollutants for management

Great Barrier Reef

The greatest water quality risks to the Great Barrier Reef are nitrogen, sediment and pesticides.
*Management priority: nitrogen and pesticides from sugarcane and erosion management in grazing.

Cape York

Includes 43,000 square kilometres of catchments that drain into the reef. The main agricultural land use is grazing.
*Overall relative risk: low.
*Management priority: maintain the current values of the region.

Wet Tropics

Covers 22,000 square kilometres. The main agricultural land uses are grazing, sugarcane and horticulture.
*Overall relative risk: very high.
*Management priority: nitrogen from sugarcane and bananas, pesticides from sugarcane.

Burdekin

Covers 141,000 square kilometres and is largely drained by the Burdekin River system. The main agricultural land use is grazing.
*Overall relative risk: high.
*Management priority: nitrogen and pesticides from sugarcane and erosion management in grazing.

Mackay Whitsunday

Covers an area of 9000 square kilometres. The main agricultural land uses are grazing and sugarcane.
*Overall relative risk: moderate.
*Management priority: pesticides and nitrogen from sugarcane.

Fitzroy

Covers 156,000 kilometres and is the largest region draining into the reef lagoon. Grazing is the predominant land use.
*Overall relative risk: high.
*Management priority: erosion management and pesticides in grazing and cropping.

Burnett Mary

Covers 53,000 kilometres square kilometres. The main agricultural land use is grazing.
*Overall relative risk: uncertain.
*Management priority: erosion management and grazing.

*Water quality relative risk in relation to the Great Barrier Reef and priority pollutants for management in each region from Brodie, J. et al. 2013 Reef Water Quality Scientific Consensus Statement 2013, Department of the Premier and Cabinet, Queensland Government, Brisbane.

Results

For more information, read the frequently asked questions (PDF, 387K).

Contributors

Last updated:
22 March, 2016

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