Daintree Estuary

The area of the Daintree estuary reporting zone can be defined by the pre-cleared extent of mangrove and saltmarsh remnant vegetation which is characterised by species that require periodic inundation of sea water. This area extends approximately 5.5 km northeast and 6.4 km south-west of the river mouth along the coastline and extends approximately 12 km inland.

The area includes several coastal tributaries that drain into the Daintree River. The assessment area of riparian extent extends further up the river than the mangrove and salt marsh communities to the upper tidal limit and includes vegetation types that are more typical of freshwater environments.

Land use within and adjacent to the Daintree estuary area is dominated by cropping with some grazing and residential development. The Daintree village is approximately 16 km north-west of the river mouth. The lower Daintree River is listed in the Directory of (Nationally) Important Wetlands.

The diagram below shows the detailed results for each indicator by year. Click on the timeslider to see data from previous years.

Water quality

The grade for Daintree estuary water quality remained ‘good’. There was a slight year-on-year increase in the score from 79 to 80.

The lowest scoring indicator for 2016-17 was FRP (filterable reactive phosphorus) which had a score of 55 and was graded 'moderate'. DIN (dissolved inorganic nitrogen) was graded ‘good’ and all other indicators were graded ‘very good’.

Water quality grades are based on aquatic ecosystem guidelines for protection of estuarine waters, and are not based on load reduction targets for the marine environment. The results are derived from a transect of three monitoring sites in the channel of the Daintree River.

Pesticides are not monitored in the Daintree estuary so scores and grades are not provided.

Habitat and hydrology

The habitat and hydrology index is comprised of three longer-term indicator categories that are updated every four years: mangrove and saltmarsh extent (update due for 2017-18), riparian extent (update due for 2017-18) and fish barriers (update due for 2019-20).

The habitat and hydrology score has remained at 60 (graded ‘moderate’).

The mangrove and saltmarsh extent scored 93 (‘very good’) with 1.7% loss from pre-clear to 2013. These results reflect a low level of development within the estuary area.

Riparian extent is assessed to the upper tidal limit of the river which extends upstream of the estuary area that is characterised by mangroves and saltmarsh. Riparian assessment therefore includes areas that have been cleared for agriculture and other developments. The riparian extent scored 25 (‘poor’) with 45.1% loss from pre-clear to 2013.

For estuary fish barriers the Daintree estuary scored 61 (‘good’) with ‘moderate’ barrier density, ‘moderate’ percentage of stream length to the first barrier and an absence of low passability barriers (graded ‘very good’).

The flow indicator could not be assessed for the Daintree estuary due to the lack of pre-development modelled flow, which is required for the analysis.


The fish index is currently under development and will be available in future report cards.

Further information on the methods used to produce the scores and grades and detailed results can be found here.