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Study into reef runoff

REDUCING REEF RUNOFF: CQUniversity Professor John Rolfe has published a paper on the impact of land types on runoff to the Great Barrier Reef.
REDUCING REEF RUNOFF: CQUniversity Professor John Rolfe has published a paper on the impact of land types on runoff to the Great Barrier Reef. Chris Ison ROK

CONCERNS about excess sediment loads into the Great Barrier Reef has led to research on the most cost-effective areas to change stocking rates to help reduce runoff.

The research, published last week in the Agriculture Ecosystems & Environment journal, indicates there are ways to better allocate grants for central Queensland landholders to reduce runoff.

Researchers looked at the runoff from different soil types across the Fitzroy Basin catchment and how a change in the amount of grazing done on that land type impacted on it.

One of the researchers, CQUniversity Professor John Rolfe, said they looked at where the largest potential for reducing runoff on agricultural land was, by land type.

"We tried to look at what the trade-offs were between livestock product and soil runoff, when there was a change in stocking rates," he said.

"The modelling looked at what the trade-offs were with different land types."

Prof. Rolfe said the findings showed some land types with more fertile and profitable soils were more expensive to change stocking rates on than other soils.

There was a much larger variation in the cost effectiveness of different soils than the government thought.

"In some (land types) it's really cheap to reduce stocking rates and reduce runoff to the reef," he said.

"The cheap land types are the fragile soils on larger slopes on hills."

While the research was only recently published, Prof. Rolfe said the Fitzroy Basin Association had access to it for 18 months to allow the association to allocate its funding more efficiently.

Areas with soil types which would cost more to reduce grazing on could receive grants or investments to help them change their patterns so the impact on the reef would be reduced, Prof. Rolfe said.

The results would help the association to target its investments for soil health and Great Barrier Reef health.

The Fitzroy catchment is the largest Great Barrier Reef catchment. The work was done in conjunction with CQUniversity and the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, with funding from the FBA.

Topics:  environment great barrier reef