Protecting biodiversity across South East Queensland

As we come to the end of Biodiversity Month, we’d like to share a cross section of some of the great Healthy Land and Water projects that protect, conserve, and improve biodiversity right here in South East Queensland. To understand the significance of these projects to our region and our communities, it is useful to take a look at why biodiversity is important. Biodiversity encompasses every living thing that exists on our planet and the environment in which they live to form an intricate ‘web of life’.

South East Queensland is internationally recognised for its unique ecosystems and abundant flora and fauna. The region is home to several thousand plant and animal species, many of which are endemic (meaning they are only found in South East Queensland). There are over 154 native plant communities, and a diversity of coastal, marine, and freshwater environments. South East Queensland’s Moreton Bay Ramsar Site and Gondwana Rainforests of Australia World Heritage Area are landscapes of international biodiversity significance.

Unfortunately, there are significant historical and ongoing threats to our region’s biodiversity including habitat loss and fragmentation, introduced species, poor fire management regimes, and climate change. This has led to over 150 ecosystems and 320 species being listed as threatened or near threatened. The SEQ Natural Resource Management Plan (NRM Plan) sets out a coordinated set of actions seeking to conserve, manage, or enhance natural assets through proactive actions. It identifies key targets for our region’s biodiversity. Healthy Land and Water is providing the leadership in the review of the SEQ NRM Plan on behalf of the Australian and Queensland Governments and our members, with input from the community. Biodiversity is important to humans for many reasons, we depend on biodiversity for our sustenance, health, wellbeing, and enjoyment of life. We derive all our food and many medicines and industrial products from biological diversity.

The biodiversity book by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) describes five core and interacting values that humans place on biodiversity. Any loss or deterioration in the condition of biodiversity can affect human wellbeing and compromise these values:

  • Economic — Biodiversity provides humans with raw materials for consumption and production. Many livelihoods, such as those of farmers, fishers, and timber workers, are dependent on biodiversity.
  • Ecological life support— Biodiversity provides functioning ecosystems that supply oxygen, clean air and water, pollination of plants, pest control, wastewater treatment, and many ecosystem services.
  • Recreation — Many recreational pursuits rely on our unique biodiversity, such as birdwatching, hiking, camping, and fishing.
  • Cultural — Australian culture is closely connected to biodiversity through the expression of identity, spirituality, and aesthetic appreciation. Traditional Owners have strong connections and obligations to biodiversity arising from spiritual beliefs about animals and plants.
  • Scientific — Biodiversity represents a wealth of systematic ecological data that help us to understand the natural world and its origins.

 

Biodiversity Month aims to promote the importance of protecting, conserving, and improving biodiversity and ensure our environments and habitats are preserved for future generations to cherish and enjoy. We hope you enjoy reading more about a cross-section of our projects at Healthy Land and Water aimed at improving biodiversity here in South East Queensland.

Moreton Bay Ramsar Site

The Ramsar Convention on Wetlands of International Importance is an international treaty that provides the framework for national action and international cooperation for the conservation and wise use of wetlands and their resources. Wetlands of International Importance in Australia are representative, rare, or unique sites – like Ramsar Sites – that are important for conserving biodiversity. Extending from the foreshores of Brisbane, Moreton Bay is internationally recognised as a Ramsar wetland for biodiversity and ecological significance and was listed as an internationally important wetland under the Ramsar Convention in 1993. It is considered one of the most significant marine habitats on the east coast of Australia and has high indigenous cultural, recreational, and economic value.

 

Environmental Restoration Fund – Migratory Shorebirds Project

The abundance of waterbirds and the significant proportion of some species’ global populations found in Moreton Bay meet two Ramsar criteria. The project implements priority actions to reduce threats to migratory shorebirds within the Moreton Bay Ramsar Site and in adjacent areas used by shorebirds that visit the Ramsar Site.

Healthy Land and Water is working with land managers, governments, Traditional Owners, community organisations, and researchers to undertake actions that protect and restore roosting and foraging habitats and build knowledge on habitats used by migratory shorebirds. Project actions are anticipated to benefit seven threatened migratory shorebirds including the Far Eastern curlew, Curlew sandpiper, Great knot, Red knot, Greater sand plover, Lesser sand plover, and Bar-tailed godwit.

This project is supported by Healthy Land and Water through funding from the Australian Government’s National Landcare Program.

Photo credit:  Bob Westerman

 

Regional Land Partnerships – Mountains to Mangroves Project

The Mountains to Mangroves Project aims to reduce threats to the Ramsar site and its threatened species through controlling pest and domestic animals, improving ecological fire regimes, weed control, reducing impacts of vehicles and pedestrians, reducing sediment run-off, marine debris removal, coastal habitat restoration, and shellfish reef creation.

Healthy Land and Water is working alongside project delivery partners including private land owners, land managers, local land care groups, and Traditional Owners.

This project is supported by Healthy Land and Water through funding from the Australian Government’s National Landcare Program.

 

 

Coochiemudlo Island Melaleuca Wetland Project

The Coochiemudlo Island Melaleuca Wetland has high cultural and ecological values and is home to an endangered plant species and over 170 recorded native plant species. The wetlands provide habitat for the threatened wallum sedge frog, making it an important freshwater wetland within the Moreton Bay Ramsar Site. Unfortunately, Melaleuca Wetlands have diminished in South East Queensland due to coastal development pressures and weed invasion. The Coochiemudlo Island Melaleuca Wetland project aims to preserve and protect the wetlands. This is not only important for the ecosystem services it provides to the Moreton Bay Ramsar site, but also for the conservation of the Melaleuca wetland ecosystem which is in decline.

The primary weeding works was estimated to reduce weeds at key locations across the wetland by approximately 70%. During the project, the team unexpectedly found additional numbers of an endangered plant species. This added an even greater conservation outcome for the project, which has strengthened the integrity of the Melaleuca wetland ecosystem and habitat for wetland fauna. This project has been delivered by Coochiemudlo Island Coastcare who has been caring for the island’s environment since 2013 using chemical-free methods. This group is continuing to care for the wetlands, with a maintenance weeding program planned for roll out over the coming years.

This project is supported by Healthy Land and Water through funding from the Australian Government’s National Landcare Program.

 

 

Sand dune stabilisation project at Woorim Beach

Bribie Island’s foreshore, which lies within the internationally listed Moreton Bay Ramsar Wetland, provides important nesting habitat for the endangered loggerhead turtles of the South Pacific Ocean and roosting habitat for migratory shorebirds. To address erosion along Bribie Island’s eastern sand dunes, the Moreton Bay Regional Council has introduced a sand back-passing system to rebuild the dunes that protect coastal development.

Erosion has caused dunal vegetation to diminish. As a result, the sand dunes are exposed to artificial light pollution from the street and houses, which disorients the loggerhead hatchlings. When the turtles hatch, they can head towards this artificial light instead of the light on the horizon out to sea The community-led Woorim Beach Foreshore Rehabilitation Project recently completed weeding and native planting of two hectares of sand dunes along Woorim Beach. This work aims to revegetate and stabilise the sand dunes that provides protection for the nesting and hatching turtles. The work also enhances diversity and abundance of coastal flora and fauna. Maintenance of the site will continue into the future.

This project is supported by the Bribie Island Environmental Protection Association (BIEPA), Barung Landcare with Queensland Government’s Skilling Queenslanders for Work, Moreton Bay Regional Council and Healthy Land and Water through funding from the Australian Government’s National Landcare Program.

 

 

Environmentally Friendly Moorings

Seagrass meadows form one of the most important marine habitats globally and occur in shallow coastal waters including many parts of South East Queensland and Moreton Bay. Traditional block and tackle moorings destroy seagrass as the mooring chain drags on the sea floor, resulting in dead zones with very little habitat value or sea life. Healthy Land and Water coordinates the Environmentally Friendly Mooring program which aims to recover seagrass in priority areas by working with mooring owners to replace existing block and tackle moorings with environmentally friendly designs. The project is delivered in close consultation with State Agencies, Traditional Owners, community groups, and the boating community.

Healthy Land and Water is currently delivering a four-year Environmentally Friendly Mooring program delivered through the Offsets team for the Department of Environment and Science (DES). This will see the delivery of 116 more Environmentally Friendly Moorings within the Moreton Bay Marine Park. So far, more than 230 traditional block and tackle moorings have been replaced with Environmentally Friendly Moorings within Moreton Bay and more are scheduled to be replaced in the near future.

The Environmentally Friendly Mooring program is a partnership with Maritime Safety Queensland, Department of Environment and Science, Gold Coast Waterways Authority, the Quandamooka Yoolooburrabee Aboriginal Corporation (QYAC), environmentally friendly mooring installers, and mooring boat holders. 

 

 

Environmental Restoration Fund: Living Waterways

The Living Waterways project aims to improve water quality in the lower Brisbane River by engaging and educating the community in ways to improve the natural environment, waterways, and water quality. The Lower Brisbane catchment has flow-on effects to the downstream Moreton Bay Ramsar Wetland, making it an important resource to protect. The Lower Brisbane Project is comprised of the Three Mile Scrub project, the Clean Up Program and Living Waterways program.

These projects all receive funding from the Australian Government.

 

 

Three Mile Scrub

Situated along the banks of Enoggera Creek, the area between Ashgrove and Newmarket, originally known as Three Mile Scrub, is an area of significant historical and botanical importance. Unfortunately vine weeds and urbanisation threaten the riparian canopy along this stretch of creek, and if left untreated they may kill the canopy trees and result in the destabilisation and erosion of the creek bank. If this were to occur it would increase sediment loads to Enoggera Creek and the downstream environments including the Lower Brisbane River and the Moreton Bay Ramsar Wetland. This project aims to regenerate the riparian corridor and return the area back to its remnant ecosystem through a program of removing invasive weeds, planting native species, and undertaking bank stabilisation. This will reduce the amount of sediment loads flowing into Moreton Bay.

Funded by the Australian Government through the Environmental Restoration Fund, this exciting project in urban Brisbane is delivered in proud partnership with Save Our Waterways Now (SOWN), Davidson Street Bushcare, Brisbane City Council (BCC) and the Oxley Creek Catchment Association. By 2023 primary weeding and revegetation will be completed along nine hectares of Three Mile Scrub riparian corridor to improve riparian habitat quality, resilience, and connectivity.

This project received funding from the Australian Government’s Environmental Restoration Fund. 

 

 

 

Litter Clean-up Program

Despite our best efforts, marine debris is still considered to be one of the most serious threats facing oceans, coastal areas, and beaches in South East Queensland and throughout the world. Healthy Land and Water has been operating the Clean Up Program across South East Queensland since 1999.

The Clean Up crew collects litter from our waterways before it flows out into Moreton Bay. The program mitigates the impacts of marine debris and waterway litter on our local waterways, catchments, and marine environments, improving ecosystem and wildlife health. In the 2019/2020 financial year alone, the program removed almost 6,000 items of litter from waterways, largely consisting of lightweight plastic items.

Once litter has been collected, we work with our research, government, and community partners to analyse and categorise the litter so we can better understand how, why, and when litter is entering our waterways and oceans. We can then use the data to inform our prevention efforts and how we can stop litter at the source. The Clean Up program, now in its 20th year has long been supported by Brisbane City Council and other Local Governments.

This project received funding from the Australian Government’s Environmental Restoration Fund. 

 

 

 

What’s your nature?

Sediment and nutrients from urban areas in Brisbane can flow into Moreton Bay where they cause water quality issues and impact aquatic habitats and fauna. Sediment smothers habitats including seagrass and coral reefs which provide important feeding grounds and nurseries for marine fauna. Nutrients increase the incidence of algal blooms, which can impact underwater habitats and result in decreased recreational opportunities.

Healthy Land and Water’s ‘What’s your nature’ projects aim to reduce the threat to Moreton Bay caused by urban derived sediment through the proposed installation of six water sensitive urban design devices that will filter out sediment and nutrients from urban run-off.

In partnership with Brisbane City Council and the Federal Government, the first of six Water Sensitive Urban Design interventions has commenced at Sandy Creek in Enoggera. This work involves riparian restoration and installing a swale, a small heavily planted channel which will help reduce the amount of sediment and nutrients entering the waterway.

The remaining five interventions will be located between the Brisbane River and Kedron Brook and will most likely consist of bioretention basins and swales. Once planning and design is completed, construction of these systems is likely to occur over the next couple of years.

This project received funding from the Australian Government’s Environmental Restoration Fund.

 

 

Gondwana Rainforests of Australia World Heritage Area

The Gondwana Rainforests of Australia World Heritage Area is home to a diverse array of plants, animals and forest types that originated at least 100 million years ago. Rainforests and other habitats within the World Heritage Area are a biodiversity hotspot containing species from ancient times, more recently evolved species, and many threatened species. The World Heritage Area includes the most extensive areas of subtropical rainforest in the world. Very few places on Earth contain so many plants and animals which remain relatively unchanged from their ancestors in the fossil record. The rainforests were recognised with UNESCO World Heritage listing in 1994 for their unique landforms, diversity of species, and for what they tell us about the development of life on Earth.

 

 

 

The Wildlife and Habitat Bushfire Recovery Program

The Illinbah section of Lamington National Park and Main Range National Park were severely impacted by high intensity fires in late 2019. The fires damaged rainforest species and opened the rainforest canopy which has allowed weeds to become established. Supported by the Australian Government’s Wildlife and Habitat Bushfire Recovery Program, Healthy Land and Water initiated two bushfire recovery projects in April 2020.

The first component of the program involves removing select weeds such as lantana, moth vine, white passionflower, palm grass, and devil’s fig from the upper Illinbah section of Lamington National Park, part of the Gondwana World Heritage Rainforests area. The second component of the program will focus on controlling access to affected areas of Main Range National Park. This work involves repairing and erecting fencing to prevent cattle intrusions. To date, the program has restored and protected habitat for more than 20 state and nationally listed threatened species and restored areas within an EPBC-listed critically endangered ecological community.

In 2020 and 2021 this work will be expanded to other areas within Lamington, Mt Barney, and Main Range National Parks. In total, over 50 hectares of habitat – including high conservation communities such as lowland subtropical rainforest – and 6km of boundary and internal fencing will be resourced by this program.

This program is supported by the Australian Government’s Wildlife and Habitat Bushfire Recovery Program. 

 

 

 

 

South East Queensland Water Riparian Weed Control

The presence of foreign weeds including Cats Claw Creeper and Madeira is progressively destroying South East Queensland’s precious ecosystems. Invasive vine weeds pose a huge threat to deep rooted remnant trees and shrubs along creeks. They are capable of overgrowing and completely smothering native trees which will eventually die. The loss of trees along a creek bank can be detrimental, causing erosion, lowering water quality, and diminishing biodiversity and available habitat for native insects, birds, and animals. These weeds continue to thrive in our environment due to the lack of natural predators and their ability to adapt and thrive in the local climate and outcompete Australia’s native species.

To help reduce the threat posed by the weed menace, Healthy Land and Water has been designing and implementing weed management efforts like the Riparian Weed Control Program across South East Queensland for the last 20 years. We are currently delivering one of the most extensive invasive vine weed management programs ever undertaken in the region. The program includes physically treating and removing vine weeds as well as the release of approved biological control agents which specifically target individual weed species. To date the project has cleared vine weeds from 104km of streambank and has released over 100,000 biological control agents at 22 different sites.

With funding provided by Seqwater, over 100km of creek bank will be cleared of destructive vine weeds over five years.

 

 

 

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