Ecosystem Health Report
- Additional Information
Summary Of results: 2013-2014
After three years of significant wet seasons, lower than average rainfall for 2013-14 reduced river flows and influenced catchment results. Drought conditions in the west brought about declines in ground cover, particularly in the Nogoa, Comet and Theresa catchments. Many western catchments went without significant flows all year, which contributed to decreases in scores for the Comet, Theresa and Upper Isaac catchments. Results for the Lower Dawson, Nogoa, Connors and Mackenzie catchments improved. Large floods and associated sediment plumes of previous years were not a factor in 2013-14, which resulted in improved scores for the Estuary.
The Report Card grades have been drawn from more than 1.2 million sample results at more than 155 sites across the Basin. The independent Science Panel has endorsed the results as the best available scientific information. Relying on monitoring data from third parties presents an ongoing challenge. The Partnership is committed to addressing data gaps in the future, especially for the ecological indicators of ecosystem health.
Facts about the Fitzroy Basin
At 142 600 km2 the Fitzroy Basin is the largest catchment on the eastern seaboard. It covers more than a third of the land that catches water and drains to the Great Barrier Reef. Named after New South Wales (NSW) Governor, Sir FitzRoy, the basin is dissected by the Tropic of Capricorn and is characterised by a humid coastal and semi-arid inland subtropical climate.
The basin is separated into six major river catchments: Isaac/Connors, Nogoa, Comet, Mackenzie, Dawson and Fitzroy, which flows into the ocean at Keppel Bay. This has been further separated into 11 waterway reporting catchments.
Seasonal irregularity is a defining feature of the basin, with long dry spells often followed by intense wet season rainfalls. Mean annual rainfall varies from 600 mm in the west, to 800 mm in the east, peaking at 1000 mm in northern coastal area. Due to its extreme size and fan like shape, the Fitzroy Basin is capable of producing large flooding. The highest recorded flood occurred in 1918.
Around 120,000 people live in the basin, with most living in the urban centre of Rockhampton. Current land use across the basin is 81% for grazing; 6% for cropping; 6% for conservation; 5% for forestry; 1% for urban; 0.5% for mining and 0.5% for irrigation.
The Fitzroy Basin is home to a number of rare and threatened species, and internationally significant wetlands. It has the greatest diversity of native freshwater fish in Australia and supports commercial and recreational fisheries significant to Queensland.
The Fitzroy River mouth marks the beginning of waters described as the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area. Flood plumes discharged from large floods extend east across the Capricorn Bunker Group and north of Townsend Island, covering an area greater than 10 000 km2.
Plumes from average floods inundate Keppel Bay. Keppel Bay is home to reefs with some of the highest coral cover of any within the Great Barrier Reef. These inshore reefs are at risk from the impacts of sediment, nutrients, and chemicals, and this risk is exacerbated by climate change.