Upper Burdekin River

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Topography

The Upper Burdekin sub-catchment drains the western side of the coastal ranges and the eastern side of the Great Dividing Range and forms the northern reaches of the catchment. The coastal ranges consist of rugged mountains, hills and dissected plateaux of granite, and granodirorite, with the eastern side of the Great Dividing Range comprised of young basalt plateaux, high plains and rugged hills of volcanic and sedimentary origin.

There are extensive areas of moderately productive and fairly erodible red duplex soils. Highly productive black and red soils are widespread on basalt areas. The remaining areas of the catchment support poor to moderate fertility sands, sodic duplex soils, red and yellow earths. Intense weathering means that with the exception of the younger soils derived from basalt; nitrogen fertility and organic matter content are low.

Subcatchments

Smaller subcatchments within the Upper Burdekin River Catchment include:

  • Seaview Creek
  • Burdekin River
  • Puzzle Creek
  • Myra Creek
  • Bewilder Creek
  • Good Camp Creek
  • North Branch
  • Quicksand Creek
  • Policeman Creek
  • McCleod Creek
  • Black Burdekin River
  • Main Camp Creek
  • Tomlin Creek
  • Twelve Mile Creek
  • Dinner Creek
  • Lucy Creek
  • Cascade Creek Complex
  • Spring Creek
  • Camp Creek
  • Peter Creek
  • Anthill Creek
  • Wobble Creek
  • Six Mile Creek
  • Glenlofty Creek
  • Reedy Brook
  • Pelican Lakes
  • Redbank Creek
  • Kangaroo Creek
  • Rocky Creek
  • Gold Creek
  • Caesar Creek
  • Jupiters Creek
  • Moore Creek
  • Stenhouse Creek
  • Bull Creek

Vegetation

Riparian Habitat

iTRARC analysis of Riparian Habitat indicates that this subcatchment was in excellent condition in the 1970s and remains in a very good condition in 2004, with a small amount of floodplain clearing the only change. The TRARC field survey results indicate poor riparian condition in 10 of the 16 sites visited, with the remainder in good condition. The TRARC results provide valuable insight into the amount of regeneration and weeds that remote sensing cannot detect.

iTRARC Scores

Catchment Class 1 A
Maximum iTRARC Score 26 (A+)
1970s Score 20 (A+)
2004 Score 18 (A)
Reduction in Ecosystem Services Very Minor
Increase in Potential for Erosion Small
Reasons for Change in Score
  • Floodplain clearing
  • Increased bare soil on the floodplain

TRARC (field survey) scores

Survey SiteScoreRegenerationWeeds
Leichhardt Ck [#1]50.7 (C)1 (C)1 sp: 10% cover (B)
Leichhardt Ck [#2]55.2 (C)1 (C)0 (A)
Glen Dhu52.7 (C)0 (D)0 (A)
Kinrara Spring [#1]54.7 (C)0 (D)1 sp: 70% cover (D)
Kinrara Spring [#2]59.2 (C)0 (D)0 (A)
Native Wells Swamp58.6 (C)1 (C)0 (A)
Lucy Ck60 (C)2 (B)0 (A)
Wobble Ck61.1 (C)0 (D)0 (A)
Anthill Ck66 (B)2 (B)0 (A)
GW Swamp67.4 (B)2 (B)0 (A)
Glenlofty Ck76.8 (B)3 (A)0 (A)
Burdekin R [#1]59.8 (C)1 (C)1 sp: 20% cover (B)
Burdekin R [#2]64.8 (B)0 (D)0 (A)
Burdekin R [#3]66.1 (B)1 (C)1 sp: 5% cover (B)
Burdekin R [#4]66.8 (B)2 (B)0 (A)
Average 61.3 (C)

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

Wetlands

This sub-division includes the uppermost tributaries of the Burdekin River (known as the Black Burdekin River). No aquatic studies have been conducted this far up the catchment. As the river moves downstream it breaks out into several channels with several significant off-stream waterbodies such as Pelican Lakes, Wairuna Lake and Lamonds Lagoon. Wairuna Lake is listed in the Directory of Important Wetlands in Australia. Lake Lucy is a series of large, seasonal shallow DIWA listed lakes important for waterbirds that are mostly ephemeral or semi-permanent. The Valley of Lagoons is an inland floodplain of the Burdekin River hosting several large off-channel lakes that provide permanent aquatic habitat, thus making them among the most valuable wetlands in this sub-division and the whole upper Burdekin sub-catchment. The Valley of Lagoons are DIWA listed for a range of aquatic values and are also considered to be one of the most important fish habitats in the upper Burdekin sub-catchment (Pusey et al. 1998, Pusey 2006).

This sub-division includes a major basalt feature with numerous springs emanating from many locations that drives permanent flow and clearwater waterholes in many creeks. This creates not only many significant waterbodies but a wide variety of wetland types. These include wetland units 9-13 and 15, all of which have high aquatic values, with Reedy Brook Creek probably the best known. Despite this recognition, these streams remain relatively less studied compared to the main channel of the Burdekin River. The northernmost section of this sub-division (and the upper Burdekin catchment) includes several large, DIWA-listed, seasonal wetlands that are particularly important for waterbirds. The condition of all waterbodies in this sub-division is generally considered to be relatively good.

Reference: Assessing the condition of Wetlands in the Burdekin catchment

For more information see Upper Burdekin River wetland condition summary

Water

SedNet Modelling of Water Quality

Model results for the Upper Burdekin River subcatchment are summarized as follows:

  • Subcatchment modelled area: 4,422 sq. km.
  • Source contributions: Hillslope = 65%; Gully = 24%; Streambank = 11%
  • Area of subcatchment with <50% ground cover: 479 sq. km or 11% of subcatchment
  • Hillslope sediment supply: 244 kg/ha/yr
  • Total suspended sediment (flow weighted) supply: 167 kt/yr
  • Total suspended sediment supply (flow weighted; normalized to area): 378 kg/ha/yr
  • Total suspended sediment end-of-subcatchment (flow weighted) yield: 156 kt/yr
  • Event Mean Concentration (EMC - flow weighted): 269 mg/l
  • Mean Annual Flow: 579,853 ML

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

Hillslope erosion is identified as the major source of sediment and particuate nutrients affecting water quality within the Upper Burdekin River subcatchment, gully erosion is understood to make a significant contribution (24%). The proportion of hillslope with low ground cover (11%) is relatively lower than in many other subcatchments. Loss of sediment and associated particulate nutrients from all sources (supply) is considered to be elevated, but relatively low (378 kg/ha/yr). The relatively low concentrations of sediments (predicted) are a consequence of the higher rainfall and mean annual flow.

Water Quality Monitoring

The monitoring site in the Upper Burdekin River catchment is located on Lucky Downs Station (just below the Upper Burdekin River sub-catchment) and has been sampled by BDTNRM Volunteers program for 1 year (2006/07 wet season). The catchment area for this monitoring site is 6,271 sq km, of which 94.5% is used for grazing. This site incorporates both the Upper Burdekin and Dry River sub-catchments. Suspended sediment concentrations in the 2006/07 wet season at this site were relatively high (mean concentration of 1,576 mg/L) compared to other catchments within the Burdekin rangelands. Additional monitoring data are required before reasonable comparisons can be made with the SedNet model.

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

Environmental Values

Aquatic Ecosystems

The aquatic ecosystem values of The Upper Burdekin subcatchment contains several very significant waterways and wetlands that have been identified as containing High Ecological Value (HEV) waters by the BWQIP ecological values technical panel and the collation of all available information. These are: (i) the very upper catchment on the western side of the coastal Gorge Ranges, including the Black Burdekin River and Rapid and Jump Up Creeks; (ii) areas within the Kinrara National Park and associated lava flow and dry rainforest area; (iii) the Valley of Lagoons Aggregation; and (iv) the waters associated with the basalt formation of Reedy Brook, south of the Valley of Lagoons. The aquatic ecosystem values of other parts of the subcatchment are considered to be Slightly to Moderately Disturbed (SMD) as a consequence of the surrounding land use for cattle grazing.

Stock Watering

Extensive cattle enterprises in the area requiring stock water. Wetlands are often used for cattle grazing

Visual Recreation

Valley of Lagoons.

The Upper Burdekin River has been nominated as a “Heritage River”. ‘Heritage Rivers retain a rich social heritage despite being degraded. They have a special place in the life of their communities, often providing scenic and considerable recreational and social amenity.

Industrial Uses

An estimated average of 43,000 tonnes of sand and gravel were extracted from the Upper Burdekin River in the ten years to 2001.

Drinking Water

Stock and domestic water use 150 ML/a from public water infrastructure. Urban water use is expected to peak by 2030 at 5,000 ML/a.

Aquaculture

Red Claw farming: 85 ha has been licensed for future red claw farming using about 3700 ML/yr. Turbidity of Burdekin waters and its impact on downstream aquatic ecosystems is seen as one of the most significant impacts of the current level of infrastructure.

Cultural and Spiritual

Custodial use of water resources by Warungnu and Warrgamay traditional owners.

References:

Landuse

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

  • Grazing: 91.6%
  • Conservation & minimal use: 7.3%

There are also many abandoned and operational mines in the subcatchment, while limited urban & semi urban land use is identified.

Grazing Land

Upper Burdekin is a moderate sized subcatchment where the land use is dominated by grazing on natural pastures.

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 Upper Burdekin River subcatchment is proportioned as follows:

  • A Condition: 12%
  • B Condition: 57%
  • C Condition: 31%
  • D Condition: n/a

Data from the Upper Burdekin River subcatchment is based on 42 observations.

On the basis of the rapid assessment, the Upper Burdekin River subcatchment is estimated to have the largest proportion of land in fair (B) condition (57%), followed by poor (C) condition (31%) and good (A) condition land (12%). Data not available for very poor (D) condition land.

Ground Cover

Ground Cover in the Upper Burdekin River subcatchment is proportioned as follows:

  • ( BC) Bare Cover:0%
  • ( LC) Low Cover: 3%
  • ( MC) Moderate Cover:5%
  • ( HC) High Cover: 55%
  • (VHC) Very High Cover: 38%

Data from the Upper Burdekin River subcatchment are based on 40 observations.

On the basis of the rapid assessment (2004-2007), the Upper Burdekin River subcatchment is estimated to have the highest proportion of land within the high (HC) ground cover category (55%), followed by very high (VHC) cover (38%) and moderate (MC) cover (5%) categories. 3% of land was estimated to fall into the low cover (LC) category.

Resource Condition Summary

Upper Burdekin River is a moderate sized subcatchment where the land use is dominated by grazing on native pastures, while approximately 7% of the land area is set aside for conservation and minimal use. There are many abandoned and operational mines throughout the subcatchment. Riparian habitat in this subcatchment has undergone limited change over the last 30 years, with a very small amount of floodplain clearing during this period, and remains in good (A) condition. The subcatchment includes an inland floodplain of the Burdekin River at the Valley of Lagoons, several large off-channel lakes, and a major basalt feature with numerous springs emanating from many locations. This drives permanent flow and clear waterholes in many creeks. The numerous springs create not only many significant water bodies, but a wide variety of wetland types. The condition of all water bodies is generally considered to be relatively good and several of the wetland habitats are listed in the Directory of Important Wetlands.

Hillslope erosion is identified by models as the major source of sediment and particulate nutrients affecting water quality within the Upper Burdekin River subcatchment, while gully and streambank erosion are also predicted to make significant contributions to the total sediment load. The rate of soil erosion is predicted to be low and below the basin average, while the total soil loss to waterways from this subcatchment is moderately elevated due to its large area. Grazing land condition is assessed as having relatively high proportions in fair (B) and poor (C) condition, but this is not well reflected in the rapid ground cover assessment (2004-07). Analysis of ground cover from satellite imagery (reference) shows that the mean ground cover has been quite consistently high throughout the subcatchment since 1997.

Water quality in the Upper Burdekin River subcatchment is predicted by models to have only slightly elevated sediment concentrations during wet season event flows. There are no water quality monitoring data with which to compare the modeled concentrations and loads.

Draft Environmental Values

The Upper Burdekin subcatchment contains several very significant waterways and wetlands that have been identified as containing High Ecological Value (HEV) waters by the BWQIP ecological values technical panel. These are: (i) the very upper catchment on the western side of the coastal Gorge Ranges, including the Black Burdekin River and Rapid and Jump Up Creeks; (ii) areas within the Kinrara National Park and associated lava flow and dry rainforest area; (iii) the Valley of Lagoons Aggregation; and (iv) the waters associated with the basalt formation of Reedy Brook, south of the Valley of Lagoons. The aquatic ecosystem values of other parts of the subcatchment 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 Upper Burdekin River subcatchment are understood to include recreation (swimming, fishing & visual appreciation), stock watering, industry, human consumption, aquaculture, drinking, and the cultural and spiritual values of the Warungnu and Warrgamay traditional owners.

Maps

Photos

References

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

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