Restoring riparian resilience in the Mary River

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Over the past twenty years of operation,the focus of the Mary River Catchment Coordinating Committee (MRCCC) has been working with landholders in the catchment to achieve both conservation and productivity gains. The freshwater and estuarine biodiversity in the 9600 km2 catchment is significant, with over 160 federally listed threatened species recorded.

These include the Mary River turtle (Elusor macrurus), a specialised river turtle which has the ability to breathe through gill like structures in its cloaca, the Mary River cod (Maccullochella mariensis) Australia’s most endangered fish, and the prehistoric Australian lungfish (Neoceratodus forsteri), which his found in only a handful of rivers, with the Mary being regarded as its most intact habitat.

Giant Barred Frog

Giant Barred Frog

Several species of threatened stream frogs are also found in the catchment such as the endangered Giant Barred frog (Mixophyesiteratus) and Australia’s most endangered bird – the Coxen’sFig parrot (Cyclopsitta diophthalmacoxeni). Recognition of the value of the Mary Catchment was made when the proposed construction of the Traveston Crossing dam in 2006 by the Queensland Government was overturned by the then Federal Environment Minister Peter Garrett in 2009.

Freshwater Mullet (GES myxus petardi)

Freshwater Mullet (GES myxus petardi)

As a result of the ecological significance of the river, the first river based recovery plan is being developed by the Australian Government Environment Department in conjunction with the MRCCC. Integrity of the riparian zone has been identified as a highly rated threat to the five species targeted by the Recovery Plan (Mary River turtle, Mary River Cod, Australian Lungfish, Giant Barred frog and Freshwater mullet). The Biodiversity Fund is enabling the MRCCC to undertake a six year project to improve habitat of these threatened species, increase biodiverse carbon storage, and bring benefits to landholders including off-stream watering points, increased shade for stock, riverbank stabilisation, and creation of riparian paddocks.

Beginning in 2012, the “Restoring Riparian Resilience” project has already established 21 demonstration reaches and 50 individual project sites.Some of these project sites involve landholders that have already been active in riparian restoration, while others are new to the program. As the project rolls out over the next four years, it is anticipated that an additional 80 landholders will be engaged. To date, about a quarter of the landholders have been new participants in riparian restoration projects, and it is expected that has the project expands the proportion of newly engaged landholders will continue to increase, creating new community networks.

Catchment map showing main tributaries sml

The project is also addressing riparian restoration issues such as connectivity and bank erosion. Connectivity is being addressed by targeting areas where restoration projects can be linked along a reach, providing the opportunity to maximise the benefit of both past and present riparian restoration activities. For example, in one project reach on the Walli Creek tributary, 13 out of 14 landholders are involved in weed control and revegetation, working together to create a connected, weed free riparian corridor.

In many of the demonstration reaches bank erosionis also being addressed, particularly following the extreme flow events of the past three years. Studies have shown that erosion of river banks contributes 87% of sediment loadsfrom the Mary River into the Great Sandy Strait. Much of this sediment finds its way into the Great Barrier Reef lagoon.  The project is taking on this difficult challenge by reducing sediment loads and improving bank stability. In some instances this has been made possible with funding from other sources such as the Queensland Government’s Flood Recovery Program. Instream works are being combined with revegetation, restoration and weed control activities on the adjacent river bank.  Leveraging funding from various sources in this way enables the project to achieve an even greater impact.

Find out more about the activities being undertaken by landholders by visiting the Rivers of Carbon website…

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