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Land

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About

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Our ecosystems and resource based economies, such as grazing and horticultural industries, all rely on the land condition and soil health. A fundamental priority for Natural Resource Management is the maintenance of land and soils, largely by maintaining land condition, and promoting soil biology in areas of intensive agriculture.

However, climate change drivers are impacting on land condition, particularly through prolonged periods of drought, which result in a decrease in surface cover and a greater % of undesirable, annual species. This may be further compounded by more very hot days which result in higher ground surface temperatures, both of which will lead to land degradation and loss of top soil, leading to a decline in pasture production, land carrying capacity and soil fertility.

Determining land condition is notoriously difficult over extensive areas such as the Northern Gulf Region, which constrains research and monitoring efforts. However, the Regional EcoAccounts provides us with our most recent “whole of region” account, based on a combination of photo monitoring points, an assessment of vegetation cover, composition and soil surface condition.

The use of remote sensing techniques is also becoming an important tool in land condition assessments.

The Regional EcoAccounts (Gobius: 2012) classed the Northern Gulf Land Health (using 14 health indicators) as being “good”, while Land Condition (as described above) was classified as in “moderate health” overall, with Karumba Plains, Claraville Plains and Donors Plateau identified as being in the poorest health, due in part to above average wet conditions in the previous 9 years which more seriously affected these lower-reach parts of the region.

Salinity is an issue which is already affecting parts of the Northern Gulf, with key risks including rising water tables as a result of intensive irrigation such as in the Northern Tablelands, increasing seawater intrusion resulting in excessive groundwater extraction along the Gulf Coast, deteriorating groundwater quality associated with water extraction from sub-artesian aquifers and the impact of soil sodicity in future agricultural development such as the Gilbert Catchment.

 

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About

Our ecosystems and resource based economies, such as grazing and horticultural industries, all rely on the land condition and soil health. A fundamental priority for Natural Resource Management is the maintenance of land and soils, largely by maintaining land condition, and promoting soil biology in areas of intensive agriculture.

 

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An improvement in overall land condition of the Northern Gulf will be achieved by:

  • maintaining ground cover at current levels as a minimum standard and incrementally improving the condition of cover;
  • arresting dryland salinity and loss of topsoil through the implementation of regenerative land management strategies; and
  • supporting policy, regulation and incentive programs aimed at delivering improved production and environmental outcomes
     

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Continue the Regional EcoAccounts to assess trends in land condition, with repeat on ground monitoring every 5 years, next due in 2016, and again in 2021, which includes the following assessments:

  • Use of rapid land condition assessment techniques to determine change in land health throughout the region. Indicators include pasture composition, broad vegetation groups, soil surface conditions, ground cover, weeds, fire, thickening etc. to establish the cause and extent of existing and potential land degradation problems;
  • Promoting safe land type carrying capacity and detail the impact of water distribution and land condition;
  • Regular monitoring of key indicators to assess any changes in land condition

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  • Cape York NRM;
  • QDAF;
  • University of Qld.
  • Wentworth Group of concerned scientists

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This action represents a commitment to continue the Eco-accounts, developed in house by NGRMG to provide a benchmark of regional resource condition, based on existing data sets and spatial information which are intermittently ground truthed at a network of monitoring sites. The model has been developed and refined, and is now able to revisit with new data at an incidence of every 5 years, to provide a regional scale assessment of trends in land condition. This method could be further developed to integrate more extensive GIS/remote sensing techniques such as land cover/ greenness index etc, and make an important contribution to understanding how the regional landscape is responding to a changing climate.

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Continue the Regional EcoAccounts to assess trends in land condition, with repeat on ground monitoring every 5 years, next due in 2016, and again in 2021. Refine approach to a finer scale, and improve by integrating new data as it emerges and trialing new technology such as the use of drones.

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