Upstart Bay Catchments

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Subcatchments

Smaller subcatchments within the Upstart Bay Catchment include:

  • Sandy Creek
  • Molongle Creek
  • Rocky Ponds Creek
  • Wangaratta Creek

Vegetation

Riparian Habitat

iTRARC analysis of Riparian Habitat zones adjacent to the streams in this subcatchment have declined from very good (A) condition to poor (C) condition in the last 30 years. This is primarily due to floodplain clearing and clearing along small headwater streams.

iTRARC Scores

Catchment Class 1 B
Maximum iTRARC Score 22 (A+)
1970s Score 15 (A)
2004 Score 6 (C+)
Reduction in Ecosystem Services Moderate
Increase in Potential for Erosion Large
Reasons for Change in Score
  • Clearing along headwater streams
  • Substantial floodplain clearing including forest
  • Increased bare soil on the floodplain

TRARC (field survey) scores = No TRARC scores for this subcatchment

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

Wetlands

The creek systems of this sub-division are mostly ephemeral, only running for short periods after significant rainfall. The coastal freshwater wetlands are also mostly ephemeral or seasonal. Several of them are included in the Directory of Important Wetlands in Australia, though this is largely based on their marine and estuarine wetland values. Very little is known about these wetlands ecologically, and any permanent waterholes within the creeks are likely small in size and very vulnerable to disturbance. Condition is generally considered to be relatively good, but this assumption has a low confidence associated with it, due to a lack of relevant information. Saltwater Creek is the exception as it retains several large, permanent waterholes and wetlands, giving the wetlands in this system higher ecological values, though these are surrounded by intensive agriculture and their condition is relatively poor, being affected by altered flow regimes and water quality and infestation by aquatic weeds.

Apart from sugar cane in the Saltwater Creek section of this sub-division, cattle grazing dominates with some significant irrigation for horticulture along several other creeks. Increased irrigation development is proposed for this sub-division, with delivery of water coming from the Burdekin River (Burdekin Falls Dam). Lukacs (1999) provides a brief overview of the freshwater wetlands in this sub-division in relation to potential irrigation development.

Reference: Assessing the condition of Wetlands in the Burdekin catchment

Upstart Bay Catchments wetland condition summary

Water

SedNet Modelling of Water Quality

Model results for the Upstart Bay subcatchment are summarized as follows:

  • Subcatchment modelled area: 438 sq. km.
  • Source contributions: Hillslope = 80%; Gully = 16%; Streambank = 5%
  • Area of subcatchment with <50% ground cover: 39 sq. km or 9 % of subcatchment
  • Hillslope sediment supply: 443 kg/ha/yr
  • Total suspended sediment (flow weighted) supply: 24 kt/yr
  • Total suspended sediment supply (flow weighted; normalized to area): 557kg/ha/yr
  • Total suspended sediment end-of-subcatchment (flow weighted) yield: 22 kt/yr
  • Event Mean Concentration (EMC - flow weighted): 280 mg/L
  • Mean Annual Flow: 78,493 ML

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

In summary, Upstart Bay is the smallest of all of the Burdekin subcatchments, with low mean annual flow (78,493 ML) and the least amount of total suspended sediment (24 kt/yr) entering the waterways. This results in low event mean concentrations of sediments and nutrients.

A large proportion of this small, coastal subcatchment has less than 80% ground cover, probably accounting for the high proportion of sediments sourced from hillslope erosion (80%). Gully erosion also contributes 16% of the sediment supply in the Upstart Bay subcatchment.

Water Quality Monitoring

The monitoring site in the Upstart Bay (Yellow Gin Creek) catchment is located at the Bruce Highway and has been sampled by the ACTFR for 2 years (2005/06 and 2006/07 wet seasons). The catchment area for this monitoring site is 38 sq km, of which 99.2% is used for grazing. Suspended sediment concentrations have been relatively high at this site (mean concentration of 435 mg/L) compared to other coastal catchments in the Burdekin Region over the monitoring period.

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

Environmental Uses and Values

Aquatic Ecosystems

Several areas of the Upstart Bay subcatchment have been identified as containing High Ecological Value (HEV) waters by the BWQIP ecological values technical panel. These include: (i) the area covered by Cape Upstart National Park; (ii) the estuarine wetland area located on the southern side of Saltwater Creek extending to the northern side of Rocky Ponds estuary (taking in Yellow Gin, Sugarloaf and Little Sugarloaf Creeks); (iii) the estuarine wetland area located at the base of Cape Upstart surrounding Nobbies Inlet; and (iv) the coastal/marine waters of Upstart Bay extending into Abbot Bay. The estuarine wetland areas are listed on the Directory of Important Wetlands as the Burdekin Delta and Southern Upstart Bay Aggregations respectively. The aquatic ecosystems values of most other parts of the subcatchment while poorly known, are considered to be Slightly to Moderately Disturbed (SMD) as a consequence of the surrounding land use. The upper reaches of Inkerman and Saltwater Creeks are identified as Highly Disturbed (HD) due to discharge of irrigation tailwater.

The aquatic ecosystem values of Upstart Bay Catchment

Cape Upstart

Cape Upstart is a granite headland covered in a range of vegetation types from vine thicket to heath and flanked by sandy beaches. The surrounding waters are part of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. The area is a declared National Park and accessible only by boat.

Saltwater and Wangaratta Estuaries.

Protected Status: GBRWHA; Fish Habitat Area of management level B. Tidal barrages and sand dams affect connectivity and salinity regimes in the dry season; fish barriers; elevated concentrations of sediments and nutrients entering waterway; freshwater flows from irrigation tail water into "naturally" saline areas.

Yellow Gin Estuary.

Relatively pristine as no cane run off enters this estuary. This creek may be considered modified where it enters the Burdekin River.

The coastal subcatchments of Upstart Bay are relatively drier than others in the Burdekin region with low rainfall and mean annual flow. Creek systems and freshwater wetlands are mostly ephemeral or seasonal with fewer permanent freshwater wetlands than the coastal areas north of the Burdekin River. The Directory of Important Wetlands (DOIW) lists the Burdekin Delta Aggregation and the Southern Upstart bay Aggregation in this subcatchment. The condition of wetlands in this subcatchment has been affected by land clearing, mostly for cattle grazing rather than intensive agriculture. In this subcatchment irrigated sugar cane developments only occur in the northern part of the subcatchment extending to Saltwater Creek.

In the Upstart Bay subcatchment the area covered by Cape Upstart National Park and two estuarine wetland areas have been assessed by the WQIP ecological values technical panel to be “effectively unmodified” (ANZECC 2000) and identified as containing High Ecological Value (HEV) waters. The first estuarine wetland area is located on the southern side of Saltwater Creek extending to the northern side of Rocky Ponds estuary - taking in Yellow Gin, Sugarloaf and Little Sugarloaf Creeks. This area is part of the area listed on the Directory of Important Wetlands as the Burdekin Delta Aggregation. The other estuarine wetland area containing HEV waters in this subcatchment is located at the base of Cape Upstart surrounding Nobbies Inlet – corresponding to the area listed on the Directory of Important Wetlands as Southern Upstart Bay.

Cape Upstart National Park covers most of Cape Upstart, an imposing granite headland, rising to 724 meters at Station Hill, covered in a range of vegetation types from vine thicket to heath. Rocky headlands rise sharply from the sea broken by sandy beaches. Streams on Cape Upstart are seasonal with small steep catchments. Surface water is generally not permanent with the persistence of water holes throughout the dry season dependent on local rainfall. There is no road access to Cape Upstart National Park and the area is largely pristine, apart from the construction of ‘beach huts’, adjacent to the beaches of Shark Bay and Flagstaff Bay, outside the Park and accessed by boat. The adjacent waters in Upstart Bay and surrounding Cape Upstart include areas zoned Conservation (Yellow) and Marine National Park (Green) and have also been categorised as containing HEV coastal/marine waters. Upstart Bay supports high dugong (Dugong dugon) populations and is a gazetted as a Dugong Protection Area (‘A’). The Bay and its estuaries also support substantial populations of fish and penaeid prawns, important to commercial and recreations fisheries and is a gazetted Fish Habitat Area (‘B’).

The area of coastal flats surrounding Saltwater and Yellow Gin Creek is distinct by having several large, intact permanent water holes. These wetlands transition from freshwater to saline depending on rainfall and tidal inundation. The wetland complex surrounding Yellow Gin Creek estuary represents one of the most intact coastal wetland systems in the Burdekin Delta Aggregation. Similar wetland areas in other parts of the Burdekin Delta region have lost some or all of their coastal flat water bodies through drainage and/or bunding and reclamation for agricultural development, making the wetland complex surrounding Yellow Gin Creek estuary significant. Little is known of the ecology of these wetlands; however, the continued existence of these seasonal coastal flat wetlands has recently enabled studies in this area investigating the contribution of off-channel coastal wetlands to estuarine fish productivity and diversity (Dr. Marcus Sheaves, James Cook University).

The area surrounding Nobby’s Inlet directly south of Cape Upstart also is connected to a network of largely intact brackish and freshwater wetlands and is listed on the Directory of Important Wetlands, as the Southern Upstart Bay Aggregation. It contributes to the almost continuous network of coastal wetlands between Ingham and Bowen with many of the ecological values of the other coastal wetland systems in the region, supporting rich and productive fisheries and avifauna and diverse coastal vegetation. Typical of the region the tidal flats are inundated by shallow freshwater during summer rain periods – but transition to brackish with tides and dry through the dry season. The area of wetlands cross the neck of Cape Upstart peninsula connecting to Abbot Bay through another area categorised as containing HEV waters, adjacent to an isolated section of Cape Upstart National Park in the Abbott Bay subcatchment. Between these areas and the main freehold property that was used for cattle grazing but retains much of its natural assets including intact brackish and freshwater wetlands. These areas support large numbers of waterbirds for breeding and drought refuge. Species include magpie goose (Anseranas semipalmata), black swan (Cygnus atratus), wandering whistling duck (Dendrocygna arcuata), plumed whistling duck (Dendrocygna eytoni), hardhead (Aythya australis), grey teal (Anas gracilis), Australasian shoveler (A. rhynchotis), Pacific black duck (A. superciliosa), pink-eared duck (Malacorhynchus membranaceus), and green pygmy goose (Nettapus pulchellus). section of Cape Upstart National Park lays Cape Upstart Station, a Other notable bird species that regularly occupy this area include the eastern curlew (Numenius madagascariensis) and the black necked stork (Ephippiorynchus asiaticus). Cotton pygmy goose (N. coramandelianus) is occasionally seen using this area as well of infrequent records of the vagrant freckled duck (Stictonetta naevosa).

Irrigation

Irrigation of sugar cane and horticulture, particularly around Gumlu.

Stock Watering

Water supply for production of healthy livestock.

Primary Recreation

Swimming in Upstart Bay.

Secondary Recreation

Fishing at Cape Upstart.

Visual Recreation

Flora, fauna and bird observing at Cape Upstart National Park.

Cultural and Spiritual

Upstart Bay is an important place for the Juru people and the Wothan (Black Crow) clan.

Wetlands, ocean and beach systems in the area formed major hunting and gathering habitats by Juru Traditional Owners.

References:

Landuse

Principle land uses within the Upstart Bay subcatchment as a proportion of total area:

  • Grazing: 70%
  • Water: 13.6%
  • Conservation & minimal use: 10.4%
  • Irrigated sugar: 4%
  • Irrigated horticulture & copping: 1.5%
  • Urban & semi urban: Limited urban & semi urban water activity use identified.
  • Mining: Limited mining water activity use identified.
  • Dryland agriculture: Limited dryland agriculture water activity use identified.


Land Condition

Definition of ABCD land condition framework

No data available for land condition in the Upstart Catchments subcatchment.

Ground Cover

No data available for Ground Cover in the Upstart Catchment subcatchment.

Resource Condition Summary

Upstart Bay is a small coastal subcatchment where the major land use is grazing on natural pastures. However, approximately 4% of the land is used for irrigated sugar and 1.5% for horticulture, while around 14% of the land is set aside for conservation and other minimal use. Riparian habitat in the subcatchment has declined over the last 30 years due to clearing of vegetation along headwater streams and floodplain. The catchment was in good (A) condition in the 1970s, but by 2004 its condition had declined to poor (C). The creek systems and wetlands of this subcatchment are mostly ephemeral and only flow for short periods after significant rainfall. Very little is known about the wetlands ecologically, and any permanent waterholes within the creeks are likely to be small in size and very vulnerable to disturbance.

Hillslope erosion is identified by models as the major source of sediment and particulate nutrients affecting water quality from within the Landers Creek subcatchment, while a contribution from gully erosion is also identified. The rate of soil erosion is predicted to be moderate, yet well below the Basin average, while the total soil loss from the subcatchment to waterways is comparatively very low. There are no rapid assessment data for land condition and ground cover available for the subcatchment. However, analysis of ground cover from satellite imagery shows that the mean ground cover across the entire subcatchment declined from 94% in 1999 to 71% in 2004, and had recovered to 88% in 2006.

Water quality in the Upstart Bay subcatchment is predicted by models to be only slightly impacted by suspended sediment during wet season event flows. However, water quality monitoring data from Yellow Gin Creek recorded slightly more elevated concentrations of sediment than predicted by models.

The area of sugar production in the Upstart Bay subcatchment is identified as a priority focus for improved management practice to reduce fertilizer and herbicide loss to waterways on the basis of the disproportionately high dissolved inorganic nitrogen concentrations and loads, and elevated concentrations of several herbicides that are associated with sugar production elsewhere in the Lower Burdekin Basin.

Draft Environmental Values

Several areas of the Upstart Bay subcatchment have been identified as containing High Ecological Value (HEV) waters by the BWQIP ecological values technical panel. These include: (i) the area covered by Cape Upstart National Park; (ii) the estuarine wetland area located on the southern side of Saltwater Creek extending to the northern side of Rocky Ponds estuary (taking in Yellow Gin, Sugarloaf and Little Sugarloaf Creeks); (iii) the estuarine wetland area located at the base of Cape Upstart surrounding Nobbies Inlet; and (iv) the coastal/marine waters of Upstart Bay extending into Abbot Bay. The estuarine wetland areas are listed on the Directory of Important Wetlands as the Burdekin Delta and Southern Upstart Bay Aggregations respectively. The aquatic ecosystems values of most other parts of the subcatchment, while poorly known, are considered to be Slightly to Moderately Disturbed (SMD) as a consequence of the surrounding land use. The Upper reaches of Inkerman and Saltwater Creeks are identified as Highly Disturbed (HD) due to the discharge of irrigation tailwater. The human use Environmental Values of the subcatchment waters are understood to include recreation (swimming, boating & visual appreciation), irrigation, stock watering, human consumption of aquatic food, and the cultural and spiritual values of the Juru traditional owners.

Maps

References

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

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