Strait Expectations is a project led by the Burnett Mary Regional Group to restore wetlands in the Great Sandy Biosphere.
It’s a Regional Land Partnerships (RLP) program, funded as part of the Australian Government’s National Landcare Program.
- Butchulla Aboriginal Corporation
- Noosa & District Landcare
- Lower Mary River Land & Catchment Care Group
- Hinterland Bush Links Mary River Catchment Care Committee
Great Sandy Strait is a sand passage estuary between the mainland and the World Heritage Listed K’gari (Fraser Island).
Of three such passages in Queensland, it is the least modified and is the largest area of tidal swamps within the Southeast Queensland bioregion.
Roughly one-third of the Strait consists of intertidal sand and mud flats as well as extended seagrass beds, mangrove forests, salt flats and saltmarshes, and is often contiguous with freshwater Melaleuca wetlands and coastal wallum swamps.
As such, the Strait is an exceptionally important feeding ground for migratory shorebirds and important for a wide range of other shorebirds, waterfowl and seabirds, marine fish, crustaceans, oysters, dugongs, sea turtles and dolphins.
The Mary River contributes high rates of fine sediments to the Great Barrier Reef and Great Sandy Strait Marine Park and Ramsar wetland area threatening this important ecology.
To remedy this, BMRG’s Strait Expectations project aims to enhance the ecological character of the Ramsar-listed Great Sandy Strait wetlands through a combination of upstream sedimentation control works and on-site remediation activities.
This project aims to assist in achieving the 20% reduction target assigned to the Mary Catchment by the Reef 2050 Water Quality Improvement Plan (Reef 2050 WQIP) through the delivery of direct on-ground remediation works and through the delivery of complimentary activities including feral animal control, weed control, species surveys and habitat restoration.
Strait Expectations will deliver restorative activities under the Commonwealth Government’s Regional Land Care Funding Program, including collection of baseline data though BioCondition assessments for removing weeds and revegetating habitat.
Community and stakeholder engagement is another component of this program which includes, conferences that ensure continued collaboration between managers and site-wide programs, remediated site demonstrations, training, and workshops events, and capacity building for traditional owners.
Multiple issues need to be addressed. First, sedimentation mobilisation in the Ramsar wetland is contributing to the loss of benthic marine habitats in the Great Sandy Strait.
Second, invasive weeds cause loss and degradation of native ecosystems and animal habitat through competition with native vegetation.
Third, pest animals, namely feral pigs, are causing predation, habitat degradation, competition and disease transmission. And finally, human activity and grazing stock are disturbing, degrading and adding to pollutants in riparian and aquatic habitats.
To address the issues, Strait Expectations will reduce sedimentation mobilisation to the downstream wetlands through bank stabilisation and flow dispersion works at the “Carters” and “Samples” sites on the Mary River.
This will mitigate the loss of benthic marine habitats in the wetlands and assist in preserving the roosting and foraging sites of the eastern curlew and other migratory species.
Bank restoration works will also enhance nesting habitats for the endangered Mary River turtle and Mary River cod.
BMRG and partners are delivering on-ground works, such as erosion control through bank stabilization along the Mary River.
Riparian areas along Mary River tributaries have been revegetated to improve water quality and reduce erosion.
Continuous weed removal and eradication in the Upper Mary River catchment will prevent infesting new areas.
Additionally, feral pig management strategies will ensure areas of high biodiversity value are maintained or improved, preventing the loss of native habitat and food, and reduce the spread of disease.
Workshops to build capacity of Traditional Owners in species surveys, water quality monitoring, weed identification and removal, and pest control techniques and knowledge are an important component of this project.
As chair of the Ramsar Management Advisory Group (RMAG), BMRG will bring together engaged stakeholders in the Great Sandy Strait Region to plan strategic conservation actions to restore and enhance the Great Sandy Ramsar.
Work done so far
Strait Expectations has already achieved:
- Erosion management of 600m of riverbank
- 2.9 hectares of riparian and aquatic area remediation
- 61.5 hectares of weed removal
- 34.2 hectares of revegetating habitat
- Controlling pest animals across 2,000 hectares
- Collecting and synthesizing baseline data across eight datasets
Community and stakeholder engagement via ten workshops, conferences and seminars Ramsar Management Advisory Group (RMAG) and through eight skills and knowledge surveys.
Strait Expectations now moves into its final year, with longer term on-ground works continuing.
This includes weed removal along the Mary River—particularly after the recent floods spread new propagule— and native habitat revegetation to protect threatened species such as the Mary River cod and Mary River turtle.
RMAG remains focused on actionable outcomes and continued consortium engagement to learn about new areas for attention and successes to be shared. Program review will reflect on achievements and identify next steps.