Good Science Good for the Reef

Organisations engaged in waterway health monitoring across the Wet Tropics are pooling their data to support initiatives aimed at enhancing the health of local waterways that flow to the Great Barrier Reef.

In a week when Australia is celebrating National Science Week, Ryan Donnelly, Chair of the Wet Tropics Healthy Waterways Partnership, said collating and consolidating scientific data from a range of independent sources, including industry, academic research and government, is an important step in the Reef 2050 Long Term Sustainability Plan. The data will be presented in an annual Report Card, with a pilot to be released at the end of 2016.

“The Report Card will integrate and build upon existing monitoring, modelling and reporting already taking place at the sub-catchment, catchment and reef-wide scale. It will also assess the environmental, social, economic and cultural health of our local waterways. The results will help us to understand where water quality is good and where it can be improved,” he said.

Mr Donnelly says the pooled data will paint a much clearer picture than any single data set used in isolation and that it is underpinned by serious scientific rigour.

“This project will guide investment in waterway health improvements across the Wet Tropics region so we need all the monitoring data that is collected by various organisations and encourage everyone to contribute. The pooled data will be made freely available to everyone,” he said.

“Integrating waterway health data that is collected for various different purposes is no easy task but the scientific integrity of the report card is underpinned by a Technical Working Group comprising scientists from a range of disciplines. An Independent Science Panel also assesses the methods and results ensuring the Partnership has been informed by open, transparent, credible and independent peer reviewed science. The level of scientific rigour offers confidence that any investment of public money on waterway health improvements is money well spent.”

The Report Card will cover nine freshwater basins from the Daintree River in the north to the Herbert River in the south, eight estuaries including Trinity Inlet and the Hinchinbrook Channel, four inshore zones and one offshore zone.

The project is developed and overseen by the organisations that have already come on board as partners. This includes the Queensland government, Ports North, Cairns Regional Council, the Association of Marine Park Tourism Operators and Terrain Natural Resource Management.

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