By Pat Pepper, NCWQ Environmental Adviser
This report focusses on aspects of the recently released State of the Environment Report, which are pertinent to Queensland. The situation is dire in many aspects. However, the Queensland Government in partnerships with community groups and landowners has an ongoing commitment for improvement and there are several new initiatives. Though, if Australia is to meet its targets more needs to be done.
The State of the Environment Report (SOED)
The State of the Environment Report (SOED), produced every five years, reported continuing declines in the amount and condition of native vegetation, soil, wetlands, reefs, rivers and biodiversity While many Australian ecosystems have evolved to rebound from extreme weather conditions and events such as bushfires, the frequency, intensity, and compounding nature of recent events has put immense stress on species already threatened by habitat loss and invasive species. As well as climate stresses, habitat loss and degradation remain the main threats to land-based species in Australia, impacting nearly 70% of threatened species.1,2,3
While oceanic marine areas remain in generally good condition, nearshore reefs are in poor condition due to poor water quality, invasive species and marine heatwaves. Climate change continues to warm and acidify the ocean and major marine heatwaves caused mass coral bleaching on the Great Barrier Reef in 2016, 2017, 2020 and 2022. Such frequent disturbances threaten coral recruitment and may not leave enough time for recovery.1,2,3
The number of plant and animal species in Australia, listed as threatened increased from 1,774 in 2016 to 1,918 in June 2021. Clearing native vegetation is a major cause of habitat loss and fragmentation. Extensive areas were cleared in Queensland over the last five years.1,2,3
Urban expansion is reducing the quantity and quality of native habitat. There has been significant forest and woodland habitat loss in Brisbane, Gold Coast to Tweed Heads, Townsville, and the Sunshine Coast with 12,923 hectares destroyed in Queensland between 2000 and 2017.1,2,3
The SOED also assessed the dependency of humans on nature e.g. lifestyle activities. While cyclones, floods and bushfires directly destroy homes and landscapes, heatwaves kill more people in Australia than any other extreme event. The direct effects of environmental damage on human health, for example from bushfire smoke were considered as well as indirect benefits of a healthy environment to mental health and well-being.2,3,4
While the situation is dire, the Queensland Government (QG) in partnerships with community groups and landowners has an ongoing commitment for improvement and there are several new initiatives.
Queensland has over 1,000 national parks and other protected areas, five UNESCO World Heritage sites [The Great Barrier Reef, Fossil Mammal Site Riversleigh, Lamington National Park (a prime portion of Queensland’s Gondwana Rainforest), Fraser Island and Wet Tropics of Queensland]5 and five significant wetlands protected under the international Ramsar convention [Bowling Green Bay, Shoalwater and Corio Bays Area, Great Sandy Strait, Currawinya Lakes and Moreton Bay]6. Over 14.2 million hectares across Queensland is now protected, including national parks, conservation parks, special wildlife reserves and nature refuges. An expanded Queensland protected area system aims to safeguard biodiversity and cultural values, protect threatened species, and build climate change resilience while creating economic benefits.7
In the 2022-23 budget, the QG announced an injection of $262.5 million over 4 Years to expand the State’s network of protected areas by continuing to implement the Queensland’s Protected Area Strategy 2020-30 for land acquisitions and capital works.8
Recently, the 1,877 hectare Tumoulin forest reserve was upgraded to national park status. It has significant conservation values, including endangered remnant ecosystems containing wet sclerophyll forest and is home to several threatened species including the yellow-bellied glider, magnificent brood frog and the southern species of rufous owl. As well as rich and diverse natural and cultural values, the Tumoulin National Park demonstrates how the Traditional Owners can co-manage a national park with Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service and Partnerships.9
The QG’s 2022-23 budget allocated $60 million for round two of the Land Restoration Fund. Projects, funded by the Land Restoration Fund, are being contracted across the State to create regional jobs including those for First Nation people, provide habitat for threatened species and improve the health of the land and waterways as well as generate new income for landholders, farmers and First Nations peoples via carbon credits created by capturing or reducing emissions in their vegetation and soils10.
Projects10,11 recently contracted include
- A $2.95 million 15-year project which involves planting 204,000 trees over 60 hectares to deliver a significant wildlife corridor in the uplands of the Atherton Tablelands.
- a $2.61 million $15-year project which involves the planting, establishing, and enriching of koala habitat. It will also help reduce dissolved inorganic nitrogen and fine sediment loads entering Barambah Creek which drains into the Great Barrier Reef.
- a $792,000 15-year project to improve the health of soil and native vegetation ecosystems at Calliweera station, Morinish, north-west of Rockhampton, which aims to benefit the Great Barrier Reef and surrounding ecosystems and wildlife
- a $147,900 5-year project to sequester carbon in existing native forests, which aims to prevent sediments flowing to the Great Barrier Reef, increase threatened species habitat, including koala habitat, and improve the condition of soil and vegetation around creek banks.
Great Barrier Reef
As part of the $23.5 million Reef Assist program, expressions of interest have been called for to support locally led projects in all Reef catchment areas between the Wide Bay and the Cape. So far projects in the program has improved the environmental condition of the Great Barrier Reef catchments, water quality and resilience to future floods through riparian revegetation, engineered bank stabilisation and gully remediation, soil condition through enhancing the soil microbe community and on-site composting of weeds across over 34,000m2 area, produced ecotourism assets (eco trails and tables) and rehabilitated wetland habitat, and supported more than 232 full-time, part-time, and casual positions.12,13
Pat Pepper, NCWQ Environment Adviser
- Australia state of the environment 2021 (dcceew.gov.au)
- Report by Wendy Rainbird, NCW A Convenor for Well being, July, 2022.
- 2020. Queensland’s Protected Area Strategy 2020–2030: Protecting our world-class natural and cultural values. Brisbane, Department of Environment and Science, Queensland Government
- https://statements.qld.gov.au/statements/95596 Welcome to Tumoulin National Park
- https://statements.qld.gov.au/statements/95868 New Land Restoration projects to grow carbon farming, create jobs and protect environment
- https://statements.qld.gov.au/statements/95864 $10 million up for grabs to protect the Reef and reef jobs
NCWQ Environment Adviser
background photo credit: https://soe.dcceew.gov.au/
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