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Reef water quality report card unveils encouraging results

by GBRMPA Media on 24 Apr 2013
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The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA) has applauded the efforts of thousands of farmers and graziers who are working to boost the health of the Great Barrier Reef, after a report card showed progress is being made in improving water quality.

The Australian and Queensland governments have released the Reef Plan Second Report Card which measures the progress being made in reducing run-off of sediment, fertilisers and pesticides from broadscale agriculture.

Reef Plan is a joint agreement that aims to halt and reverse the decline in the quality of water entering the Great Barrier Reef.

Based on 2009-2010 data, the report card shows nitrogen loads entering the Reef dropped by four per cent, phosphorous by two per cent, sediment by two per cent and pesticides by eight per cent.

Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority Chairman, Dr Russell Reichelt, said the results also highlight the extent to which changes are taking place in the way many farmers manage their land.

'It’s important to recognise that considerable positive change is happening, with the report card showing that 20 per cent of sugarcane growers, 11 per cent of graziers and 18 per cent of horticulture producers have adopted improved management practices,' he said.

'For many, this has been a substantial commitment, especially as the dollars they have contributed under the Reef Rescue initiative have more than matched the funding they have received from the Australian Government.

'We shouldn’t underestimate the need for these changes, given a healthy Great Barrier Reef ecosystem depends on clean, unpolluted water flowing in from the catchment.

'To retain and build healthy landscapes we require the help of the agricultural sector. And as this report card shows, an increasing number of farmers and graziers are doing their bit to take some of the stress off the Reef.'

Dr Reichelt said water quality improvements would support the Reef’s natural resilience and give it a better chance of withstanding and recovering from other impacts.

'The Reef is facing a number of challenges from a variety of sources — whether it be fragmentation and loss of coastal ecosystems from development, poor water quality, climate change or severe weather events such as cyclones. Each pressure is effectively compounding another,' he said.

'Improving the quality of run-off will take some of the pressure off the Reef’s delicate ecosystem.

'Continuing this work is particularly critical at the moment given the link between elevated levels of nutrients and crown-of-thorns starfish outbreaks which have occurred since the major floods of recent years.'

Dr Reichelt said the report card represented good progress towards Reef Plan’s 2013 target of achieving a 50 per cent reduction in nitrogen, phosphorous and pesticide loads at the end of catchments.
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