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Mitigate mud… by planting vegetation in our riverbanks

One of the major issues affecting waterway health in South East Queensland is the increased amount of mud (or sediment) entering our waterways.

In South East Queensland, planting vegetation along degraded waterways and protecting existing riverbank vegetation are priority actions to reduce mud entering our waterways.

Mud in our waterways

  • increases the turbidity (or murkiness) of a waterway.
  • contains pollutants (such as nitrogen and phosphorus) that have a negative impact on water quality.
  • clogs fish gills leading to disease and, in extreme cases, death.
  • smothers aquatic plants, reducing the amount of food for fish, turtles and dugongs.
  • fills the spaces between gravel and rocks reducing the habitat for animals that live within these crevices.

In order to reduce the amount of mud entering our waterways, we must minimise riverbank erosion and prepare catchments for rainfall events by establishing healthy vegetation along riverbanks and increasing vegetated areas within catchments.

Mud impacts waterway health

The majority of mud enters our waterways during large rainfall events which are a regular feature of the subtropical climate in South East Queensland. For example, during the January 2011 and 2013 floods, millions of tonnes of mud were washed off the land and into our waterways and Moreton Bay. This mud can have significant impacts on waterway health and aquatic animals.

Vegetation reduces flood impacts

During large rainfall events, vegetation plays an important role in holding the soil in place and preventing erosion. Vegetation creates a rough surface, which helps to slow the flow of water, giving it time to soak into the ground. This reduces flooding downstream and reduces erosion associated with fast flowing water. Slower moving water also allows the mud to settle on the land before it reaches our waterways.

Scientific modelling  predicts that planting vegetation in the upper catchments can reduce the speed of flood water by up to 50% therefore protecting roads, bridges and other infrastructure downstream.

In addition, by planting vegetation along riverbanks and keeping mud on the land, we are protecting fertile farming lands and keeping valuable topsoil on the land to grow crops.

Vegetation keeps mud on the land

Since European settlement, it is estimated that 80% of South East Queensland’s native vegetation has been cleared for agriculture, industry and housing.

Protecting and planting native vegetation along riverbanks significantly reduces the amount of mud that enters our waterways.

Riverbank vegetation:

  • limits the amount of mud entering waterways because the roots of vegetation hold the soil in place and reduce erosion.
  • filters rainwater and traps mud, pollutants and other debris before it reaches waterways.
  • provides habitat for both land-based and aquatic animals.
  • provides shade and moderates water temperature through overhanging trees.

What you can do

  • We all have a role to play in protecting and improving waterway health.
  • Activities which disturb the land (such as gardening and renovations) can increase the amount of mud that is washed off your property and into local waterways.
  • Small lifestyle changes can help to protect our waterways for future generations to enjoy.
  • There are a number of things you can do around your home to mitigate mud and protect waterway health.
  • Plant native vegetation in your backyard and along waterways.
  • Keep exposed dirt to a minimum by mulching.
  • Sweep up dirt and mud rather than hose it down the drain.
  • Use a low force hose when watering your garden to prevent soil washing off the surface.
  • Keep steep slopes to a minimum when designing the landscape of your backyard.
  • Build a rain garden in your backyard to reduce stormwater pollution.
  • Report muddy water running off construction sites to your local council.
  • Organise a community tree planting event or contact your local community group to join a community tree planting event.

For rural landholders

  • There are a number of things you can do on your farm to manage erosion and reduce the amount of mud entering local waterways
  • Plant native vegetation along waterways.
  • Ensure adequate vegetation is planted around production areas.
  • Fence off riverbanks and provide off stream watering points to limit animal access to local waterways.
  • Retain soil cover by mulching.
  • Cover stockpiled soils to prevent soil being transported into waterways by wind or rain.
  • Revegetate cleared land as soon as possible.
  • Seek property management advice from SEQ Catchments or your local council.

Tips for planting vegetation

  1. Select the right time of year for planting. In South East Queensland, it is recommended to plant in the summer and autumn.
  2. Prepare your site for planting by removing any weeds and aerating the soil.
  3. Select local native species to plant as they provide habitat and food for native wildlife.
  4. Dig a hole and fill it with water. Wait for the water to drain into the soil.
  5. Remove the plant from the pot, loosen the soil from around the roots and place it into the hole.
  6. Add some organic fertiliser or compost.
  7. Fill soil back into the hole and around the stem of the plant.
  8. Add some mulch around the plant.
  9. Water the plant thoroughly. See our Watering Schedule.
  10. Visit the site regularly to remove any weeds and check on the progress of your plant.

Watering schedule

Time since planting Water requirements
1 week Water seedlings daily
2-6 weeks Water seedlings twice a week
7-12 weeks Water seedlings once a week
Periodically Depending on the weather check to make sure seedlings are not drying out

Note, Watering Schedule may vary depending on species.

South East Queensland Catchment Storymap

This Storymap presents a series of interactive maps that highlight the outcomes of Healthy Land and Water’s Ecosystem Health Monitoring Program (EHMP). The program provides a regional assessment of the health of each of South East Queensland’s major catchments, river estuaries and bay zones. Explore the data stories or make your own map. […]

Get in touch

Healthy Land and Water is dedicated to the care of our unique and beautiful land, waterways and biodiversity.

  • Address: Level 19, 160 Ann Street Brisbane QLD 4000
  • PO Box: 13204, George Street Brisbane QLD 4003
  • Phone: (07) 3177 9100
  • Fax: (07) 3177 9190
  • Email: info@hlw.org.au

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