Research leads to Great Barrier Reef rescue purchase

Leading geomorphologist Dr Andrew Brooks says the Queensland Government’s plan to rehabilitate grazing land to improve water quality of the Great Barrier Reef is based on “good science”.

The State Government has agreed to purchase the grazing lease on the 56,000-hectare Springvale Station in north Queensland, which is a parcel of land central to the catchment for the northern Reef.

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Normanby, North Queensland (Google Maps)

“It is a triumph of good policy built on good science”, said Griffith University scientist Dr Andrew Brooks who has led a team of scientists since 2009 focused on understanding the sources of sediment and nutrients from the Normanby catchment to the northern Great Barrier Reef.

“The Normanby catchment contributes around 50 per cent on average of the run-off to the northern Great Barrier Reef, and so the sediment and associated nutrients from this catchment have a significant impact on this part of the reef,” he said.

“The recent coral bleaching in the northern Reef, which until recently had been spared the degradation that has occurred further south, is a serious blow to the long term survival of the reef, and makes it even more important that we do whatever we can to improve the resilience of the northern Great Barrier Reef by improving the water quality.”

The detailed mapping and field work that the Griffith University researchers used to develop a sediment budget for the Normanby (www.capeyorkwaterquality.info/) highlighted the fact that a large proportion of the sediment and nutrients is coming from a very small proportion of the landscape.

“When we compiled all the data we found that 40 per cent of all gully erosion was coming from one property  – Springvale Station”, said Dr Brooks.

“So the case for undertaking some focused rehabilitation work on this property was a compelling one, and the Government to their credit has picked up on that and acted on it.

“Nevertheless, purchasing the property is just the start. Now comes the challenge of actually implementing an effective rehabilitation strategy.

“We are, however, excited by the opportunity that this presents to make a real difference to improving water quality to the northern Great Barrier Reef” said Dr Brooks.

Know More: Australian Rivers Institute

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