The area of the Russell-Mulgrave 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 1.5 km north and 2 km south of the river mouth along the coastline and extends approximately 5.2 km inland. The area includes the confluence of the Russell River and Mulgrave River and several coastal tributaries that drain into the main river channels.
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 Russell-Mulgrave estuary area is dominated by grazing in native vegetation in the downstream reaches with cropping more dominant upstream of the confluence on both the Russell and Mulgrave rivers, with some residential development. The localities of Deeral and Bellenden Ker are just west of the estuary area.
The Russell-Mulgrave estuary grade has remained ‘good’ and the score has decreased to 70 in 2017-18 from 72 in the previous year.
The diagram below shows the detailed results for each indicator by year. Click on the timeslider to see data from previous years.
The Russell-Mulgrave estuary water quality remained ‘good’ although the score decreased to 66 in 2017-18 from 75 in the previous year. The lowest scoring indicator was DIN (dissolved inorganic nitrogen) at 29 (‘poor’), FRP (filterable reactive phosphorus) was graded ‘moderate’, dissolved oxygen was ‘good’, whilst chlorophyll a and turbidity were graded ‘very good’.
Pesticides were graded ‘moderate’ and scored 55, equating to 93.7 percent of species protected for the risk assessment metric.
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, excluding pesticides, are derived from two monitoring sites in the channel at the confluence of the rivers. Pesticide results were based upon monitoring at the same Great Barrier Reef Catchment Loads Monitoring Program site son the Mulgrave and Russell rivers as used for the basins.
Habitat and hydrology
The habitat and hydrology index is comprised of flow, which is assessed annually, and three longer-term indicator categories that are updated every four years: mangrove and saltmarsh extent, riparian extent (both due for updates in 2018-19) and fish barriers (update due for 2019-20). The habitat and hydrology remained ‘good’ and the score increased to 75 in 2017-18 (from 69) due to the change in the flow indicator score.
The mangrove and saltmarsh extent scored 98.0 (‘very good’) with 0.5% 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 24 (‘poor’) with 46.8% loss from pre-clear to 2013.
Estuary fish barriers for the Russell-Mulgrave estuary are scored 81 (‘very good’) and are graded 'very good’ for barrier density, ‘good’ for percentage of stream length to the first barrier, with an absence of low passability barriers (graded ‘very good’).
The Russell-Mulgrave estuary was graded as ‘very good’ for flows during 2017-18. Flows to the Russell-Mulgrave estuary were not substantially altered from pre-development flows in their capacity to support the key ecological assets of water holes, low flow spawning fish, riffle habitats and fisheries production.
The fish index is currently under development and will be available in future report cards.