Star River

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Vegetation

Riparian Habitat

iTRARC analysis of Riparian Habitat indicates that this subcatchment located largely within the Townsville Field Training Area, was in excellent condition in the 1970s and remained so in 2004. The TRARC data indicate poor condition but it is interesting to note that all sites show good to very good regeneration, however weeds are a problem, and are reducing the overall TRARC scores at these sites.

iTRARC Scores

Catchment Class 1 A
Maximum iTRARC Score 26 (A+)
1970s Score 20 (A+)
2004 Score 19 (A+)
Reduction in Ecosystem Services No Change
Increase in Potential for Erosion Small
Reasons for Change in Score
  • Increase in the number of low cover hill slopes adjacent to the stream network

TRARC (field survey) scores

Survey SiteScoreRegenerationWeeds
Star R [#1]58.4 (C)2 (B)2 sp: 25% cover (C)
Star R [#2]62.7 (C)3 (A)1 sp: 50% cover (C)
Little Star R69.3 (B)2 (B)1 sp: 20% cover (C)
Average 63.5 (C)

Reference:Assessing the condition of Riparian Vegetation in the Burdekin catchment

Wetlands

This river arises in the rainforest-covered mountains of the Paluma Range, thus providing it with regular wet season flushes of good quality water. The creek system contains a wide variety of habitats as it progresses downstream from rainforest through to savanna rangelands. The large amount of good condition habitat provides for high ecological values, with many of the rainforest streams little (if any) changed from natural. The lower tributaries of the Star River arise is drier savanna country and have little if any aquatic habitat. Most of the upper catchment is either within pristine rainforest or a military training area, enabling a generally good condition to be maintained, although riparian weeds are common in the lower reaches. The water and sediment quality and riparian habitat and fish communities of this sub-division have been well studied as part of aquatic ecological monitoring funded through the Department of Defence (see Williams et al. 1993, Burrows and Butler 2000, Burrows and Butler 2001, CSIRO 2006, Dowe 2006, Loong et al. 2006) for summaries of these programs.

Reference: Assessing the condition of Wetlands in the Burdekin catchment

For more information see Star River wetland condition summary

Water

SedNet Modelling of Water Quality

Model results for the Star River subcatchment are summarized as follows:

  • Sub-catchment modelled area: 1,988 sq. km.
  • Source contributions: Hillslope = 80%; Gully = 10%; Streambank = 10%
  • Area of subcatchment with <50% ground cover: 441 sq. km or 22% of subcatchment
  • Hillslope sediment supply: 496 kg/ha/yr
  • Total suspended sediment (flow weighted) supply: 123 kt/yr
  • Total suspended sediment supply (flow weighted; normalized to area): 619 kg/ha/yr
  • Total suspended sediment end-of-subcatchment (flow weighted) yield: 117 kt/yr
  • Event Mean Concentration (EMC - flow weighted): 311 mg/L
  • Mean Annual Flow: 374,994 ML

Reference: Improved SedNet Modelling of Grazing Land in the Burdekin Catchment

Hillslope erosion is identified as the major source of suspended sediment and particulate nutrients (80%) that influence water quality in the Star River subcatchment. Hillslope erosion is predicted to contribute approximately 496 kg/ha/yr. It is estimated that 22% of the sub-catchment has poor ground cover (<50%), although much of the upper reaches the Star River sub-catchment is in good condition, with high ground cover. The total sediment losses from all sources is predicted to be substantial (619 kg/ha/yr) but may be overestimated due to the steep slopes. The event mean concentration of sediment is predicted to be relatively low compared to other Burdekin sub-catchments, due to the comparatively high flows. The Star River, which is fed from the rainforest upland regions of the Paluma Range, receives a moderate to high mean annual flow (374,994 ML).

Water Quality Monitoring

The monitoring site in the Star River catchment is on Kirkland Downs Station and has been sampled by NQ Dry Tropics volunteers for 2 years (2005/06 and 2006/07 wet seasons). The catchment area for this site is 1,688 sq km, of which 44.8% is grazing. Suspended sediment concentrations have been relatively low (mean concentration of 165 mg/L) compared to other waterways of the Burdekin rangelands over the monitoring period. The annual flow-weighted suspended sediment loads for the Star River is estimated at 30,000 tonnes per year based on the 2 years of monitoring data. This estimate is considerably lower than the load calculated by the SedNet model (117,000 tonnes) which suggests that the modelling data are overestimating loads for this catchment. Based on the monitoring data, the Star River contributes only around 1% of the total sediment load for the upper Burdekin River.

Relevant information of Water Quality Monitoring in the Upper Burdekin River Basin:

Environmental Values

Aquatic Ecosystems

A large area, corresponding to the entire upper section of the Star River subcatchment, taking in the steep western slopes of the Paluma Ranges and forested headwaters of Star River, has been identified as containing High Ecological Value (HEV) waters by the BWQIP ecological values technical panel. This area includes: (i) sections of the Paluma State Forest and adjacent section of Paluma Range National Park; (ii) the area contained within Mount Zero – Taravale Sanctuary on the western side of the upper catchment; and (iii) the large area of the Townsville Field Training Area. The aquatic ecosystems values of the lower reaches and tributaries of the Star River are considered to be Slightly to Moderately Disturbed (SMD) as a consequence of the surrounding land use for cattle grazing.

The aquatic ecosystem values of Star River

Stock Watering

Water supply for production of healthy stock.

Drinking Water

Suitability of raw drinking water supply.

Cultural and Spiritual

Custodial use of water by Nywaigi traditional owners.

References:

Landuse

Principle land uses within the Star River subcatchment as a proportion of total area:

  • Grazing: 53%
  • Conservation & minimal use: 44.35%
  • Water: 1.3%
  • Production & forestry: Limited production & forestry water activity use identified.
  • Urban & semi urban: Limited urban & semi urban water activity use identified.
  • Mining: Limited mining water activity use identified.

Grazing Land

Star River is a relatively small subcatchment where land use is predominantly divided between grazing on natural pastures, and conservation and minimal use, with only a small area set aside for production forestry.

Land Condition

Definition of ABCD land condition framework

Results of a Rapid Land Condition Assessment (adopted from Hassett et al. 2000) are presented below. The assessment has been devised to subjectively characterise condition while traversing the BDT region by vehicle. The data are based on a total of 4666 observations across the Burdekin region between 2004 and 2007.

The data were collected to provide independent information on land condition and provide a regional perspective. Resource assessment data are most useful when interpreted with other sources of data e.g. time-series remote sensing, modelling and water quality monitoring.

The estimated condition of the Star River sub-catchment is proportioned as follows:

  • A Condition: 40%
  • B Condition: 54%
  • C Condition: 6%
  • D Condition: 0%

Data from the Star River sub-catchment is based on 50 observations.

On the basis of the rapid assessment, the Star River sub-catchment is estimated to have the largest proportion of land in fair (B) condition (54%), followed by good (A) condition (40%) and poor (C) condition land. Data not available for (D) condition land.

Ground Cover

Ground Cover in the Star River sub-catchment is proportioned as follows:

  • ( BC) Bare Cover: 0%
  • ( LC) Low Cover: 0%
  • ( MC) Moderate Cover: 53%
  • ( HC) High Cover: 29%
  • (VHC) Very High Cover: 17%

Data from the Star River sub-catchment are based on 58 observations.

On the basis of the rapid assessment (2004-2007), the Star River sub-catchment is estimated to have the highest proportion of land within the moderate (MC) ground cover category (53%), followed by high (HC) cover (29%). 17% of land was estimated to fall into the very high cover (VHC) category.

Resource Condition Summary

Star River is a relatively small subcatchment and, while the major land use is grazing on native pastures, approximately 44% of the land area is set aside for conservation and minimal use. There is a very small area of production forestry and many abandoned and operational mines throughout the subcatchment. Riparian habitat in this subcatchment has undergone no apparent change in the last 30 years and remains in very good (A) condition. The Star River arises in the rainforest-covered mountains of the Paluma Range, thus providing it with regular wet season flushes of good quality water. The creek system contains a wide variety of habitats as it progresses downstream from rainforest through to savannah rangelands. The lower tributaries of the Star River arise is drier savannah country and are thought to be largely dry, sandy ephemeral creeks.

Hillslope erosion is identified by models as the major source of sediment and particulate nutrients affecting water quality within the Star River subcatchment. The rate of soil erosion is predicted to be moderate and close to both the basin and BWQIP region averages, while the total soil loss to waterways from the subcatchment is comparatively low due to its small area. Grazing land condition is assessed as having high proportions in fair (B) and good (A) condition. This is also reflected in the rapid ground cover assessment (2004-07). However, analysis of ground cover from satellite imagery (reference) identifies an area of land along the lower reaches and tributaries of the Star River that are marginal and vulnerable to 'D' condition.

Water quality in the Star River subcatchment is predicted by models to have only slightly elevated sediment concentrations during wet season event flows. Nevertheless, water quality monitoring data from the Star River have recorded consistently lower suspended sediment (and associated particulate nutrient) concentrations than predicted by models. It is likely, therefore, that the SedNet model is overestimating erosion from this subcatchment, possibly due to its steep topography and inter-annual variability in ground cover.

Draft Environmental Values

A large area, corresponding to the entire upper section of the Star River subcatchment, taking in the steep western slopes of the Paluma Ranges and forested headwaters of Star River, has been identified as containing High Ecological Value (HEV) waters by the BWQIP ecological values technical panel. This area includes: (i) sections of the Paluma State Forest and adjacent section of Paluma Range National Park; (ii) the area contained within Mount Zero – Taravale Sanctuary on the western side of the upper catchment; and (iii) the large area of the Townsville Field Training Area. The aquatic ecosystems values of the lower reaches and tributaries of the Star River are considered to be Slightly to Moderately Disturbed (SMD) as a consequence of the surrounding land use for cattle grazing. The human use Environmental Values of the Star River subcatchment are understood to include use for stock watering, drinking, and the cultural and spiritual values of the Nywaigi traditional owners.

Maps

References

StarRiver.jpg
Download Catchment Layer as *.kml (requires Google Earth)

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