Protect our coastal & marine ecosystems
Great Barrier Reef Coast Marine Park
Coastal and marine ecosystems include the coastline, estuaries and inshore marine environments such as islands, coral reefs, seagrasses and the lagoon floor. These diverse systems provide many ecosystem services. These can be broadly grouped as follows:
- transport processes including regulating water flow, trapping and stabilising sediment and transporting and depositing materials
- energy and nutrient dynamics including primary production, nutrient and carbon cycling, decomposition of organic material, oxygenation, regulation of water quality and modification of chemicals and heavy metals
- climate processes including buffering temperature changes and absorbing atmospheric carbon
- biological processes that maintain plant and animal populations, including the provision of food and habitat for survival and reproduction, pathways for migration, colonisation or recruitment.
The Coastal and marine ecosystems fact sheet gives an overview of the current state and trends of this regional asset.
Mapping the key values and identifying areas that are at risk is an important tool for managing these assets effectively. The mapping tool below allows stakeholders to access specific data that can be used as a basis for sound decision making. If you are using an iPad or iPhone to access the CQSS:2030 website, please click on the mapping application button below to access it.
For more complete and detailed geographical data, or if you are using an iPad or iPhone, please visit the detailed map application by clicking the link below. You will be taken from the CQSS:2030 website to a powerful mapping application that draws on a richer data set.
In central Queensland
The region has a rich and diverse coastal and marine environment. Shoalwater Bay and Corio Bay wetlands are listed as internationally and nationally significant. The coastal and marine areas of the Fitzroy Basin are included in the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area, recognised for their outstanding universal value.
Coastal and marine habitats support a wide variety of plants and animals such as corals, seagrass and mangroves, crocodiles, turtles, dolphins, dugong, birds and fish. Iconic species include the snubfin dolphin, flatback turtle and many migratory bird species.
Commercial and recreational fisheries and the tourism industry rely on a healthy coastal and marine environment. Major port infrastructure is established and expanding at Gladstone Harbour and additional ports have been proposed for the Fitzroy Delta. Shipping transports coal and industrial products such aluminium and cement, as well as gas from the new LNG facilities being built on Curtis Island.
The coastal and marine environment also supports commercial and recreational fishing industries, tourism, ports and shipping activities. The coastal environment provided rich resources for Traditional Indigenous lifestyles, and holds many cultural heritage values for the current generations of Indigenous peoples. The coastal and marine environment supports many social and recreational outdoor activities such as fishing, boating and other water sports.
Pressures on coastal and marine resources include legacy issues associated with past land uses changes as well as current development pressures.
During high rainfall events, run-off from grazing lands contributes large loads of suspended sediment and nutrients. There have been an unprecedented number of large-scale floods in recent years (2008, 2011, 2012). While regular smaller-scale floods are important in the life cycle of some highly valued species, such as barramundi, large-scale flooding can be very destructive. Keppel Bay and Gladstone Harbour are naturally shallow and this allows wind and waves to re-suspend sediments, raising turbidity. Increased turbidity reduces light for coral reefs and seagrasses, while increased nutrient levels stimulate algal growth and competition between ecosystems. Pollutants such as pesticides are also carried into the water column.
In the coastal areas, estuarine salt marshes have been converted into ponded pastures. This replaces the salt marsh and disrupts fish migration and breeding. Modifying or removing floodplains, shorelines, dune systems and coastal vegetation will significantly affect the value and function of these systems.
Ports, coastal development and infrastructure all contribute to pressures on the coastal and marine environment. Excavations, dredging and reclamation works can disturb acid sulfate soils, which must be carefully managed to avoid acid leachate. Shipping poses risks of accidents and spills, the introduction of pests, pollution and disturbance.
Recent assessments across the Great Barrier Reef have found that the overall health of the central Queensland coastal and marine environment is poor. This reflects the water quality impacts of recent flood events, and both coral and seagrass are in declining health, and their condition has been assessed as poor to very poor.
Water quality impacts from upstream land use will continue to be problematic to the coastal and marine environment. In addition, pressures associated with ports and shipping and coastal development in general are likely to increase.
Central Queensland’s climate is getting hotter and variability in extreme events may increase. These will directly impact coastal and marine ecosystems as well as challenge land and water management systems in the catchment.
Rising sea levels are causing coastal erosion, which can affect infrastructure. Ocean waters are becoming warmer and more acidic, impacting coral reefs and other organisms. Extreme weather events, coupled with higher sea levels, may have substantial impacts on coastal environments.
Estuarine, shoreline and marine ecosystems, flows and water quality are the key attributes identified for the coastal and marine asset. Knowledge strategies relate to assessing the cumulative impacts of coastal development and the impacts of climate change. Planning strategies include identifying high-value coastal ecosystems for protection and restoration, water use and climate adaptation planning. Implementation strategies include improving water use efficiency, water quality and reducing the impact of barriers to connectivity.
The bilateral Reef Water Quality Protection Plan guides the activities of the Queensland and Australian Governments in managing agricultural impacts on water quality. The plan supports an extensive monitoring program and reports annually on the uptake of improved agricultural practices, wetland extent, water quality and marine health across Reef catchments.
The Queensland and Australian governments have undertaken complementary strategic assessments of management arrangements in the Great Barrier Reef coastal zone and the Great Barrier Reef Region respectively.
Gladstone Healthy Harbour Partnership (GHHP) has been established to manage the health of Gladstone Harbour. Various reports are available on their website.
Water storage and extraction is managed under the region’s statutory Water Resource Plan and Resource Operations Plan.
An assessment of in-stream barriers to fish passage has been undertaken and priority barriers identified for removal or modification (QDPI).
A regional Water Quality Improvement Plan has been developed to guide incentives for the adoption of improved agricultural practices (FBA).
Agricultural industry Best Management Practice programs, including Grazing BMP, Grains BMP, Growcom’s Farm Management System and BMP Cotton promote the adoption of good land and water management practices.
Reef Programme grants to support the adoption of improved agricultural practices with water quality benefits (Australian Government, FBA).
Rural Water Use Efficiency Irrigation Futures Program supports improved water management practices in agricultural industries (DNRM).
Catchment health indicators
Also in Protect our Assets