Erosion and soil chemicals a priority to improve reef water

Erosion from cattle grazing and pesticide from sugar cane crops are both high on the list of things to work on to help the Great Barrier Reef.
Erosion from cattle grazing and pesticide from sugar cane crops are both high on the list of things to work on to help the Great Barrier Reef. Lee Constable

MANAGING pesticide from the Mackay and Fitzroy regions and combating erosion from the Mary and Burnett catchments have been listed among the top priorities in a state government strategy to protect the Great Barrier Reef.

The State Government released the reef water quality strategy in Townsville  on Thursday, only weeks ahead of UNESCO's World Heritage Committee's decision on whether to list the reef as 'in danger'.

The government strategy report contained a list of priorities for Queensland coastal catchments to help reduce degraded water quality on the reef.

Combating erosion from cattle grazing and cropping in the Fitzroy region was listed among the first priorities to improve reef water quality along with reducing nitrogen from fertiliser in the wet tropics and erosion in the Burdekin.

Addressing pesticide from sugarcane in all catchments in the Mackay and Whitsundays region was listed as a second priority.

Reducing fertiliser nitrogen from sugarcane in the Mackay and Whitsundays area was listed as a third priority, along with erosion management from grazing in the Mary and Burnett catchments.

Also listed as a third priority was reducing pesticide from grazing and cropping in the Fitzroy region.

The report said whole-farm pesticide and weed management was critical to limiting the impacts on reef water quality.

"Pesticides pose a risk to freshwater, inshore and coastal ecosystems, as their presence in waterways and in the reef lagoon reduces the resilience of aquatic ecosystems," it said.

The report also explained how erosion from cropping and grazing affected the reef.

It said emerging research had shown that fine fractions of soil from grazing, cane and other cropping lands were the most likely to reach and impact on reef systems, particularly in wider flatter reef catchments such as the Burdekin and Fitzroy catchments.

State environment minister Steven Miles said this four-year strategy outlined the government's target to reduce nitrogen by 80% and sediment flowing from reef catchments by 50% by 2025.

This strategy is part of the State Government's $100 million over five years on programs to improve the health of the reef.

Topics:  erosion great barrier reef water quality

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