Great Barrier Reef Coastal Wetlands Protection Program

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West coast of Hinchinbrook Island, Qld

West coast of Hinchinbrook Island (2006)

Photo: A. Fox

About the program

In May 2003, the Australian Government announced a Great Barrier Reef Coastal Wetlands Protection Program (GBRCWPP) to develop and implement measures for the long term conservation and management of priority wetlands in the Great Barrier Reef Catchment.

This will assist in achieving the goal of the Reef Water Quality Protection Plan, which aims to halt and reverse the decline in the quality of water entering the Reef.

Threats to Queensland wetlands and the Great Barrier Reef

The GBRCWPP responded to concerns about the potential impact on the Great Barrier Reef from the loss of wetlands along the Queensland coast. The area of wetlands in the Great Barrier Reef catchment has decreased by over 50 per cent since European settlement, including 80 per cent of the Melaleuca wetlands on the Herbert River Floodplain and over 50 per cent of freshwater wetlands in the Johnstone, Russell-Mulgrave and Morseby river floodplains (Furnas, 2003 Catchments and Corals- Terrestrial runoff to the Great Barrier Reef. AIMS/CRC Reef. ISBN 0 642 55041 7).

Wetland clearing and drainage allows increasing levels of sediment and nutrient to enter the Great Barrier Reef lagoon. Sediment smothers coral, while increased levels of phosphorous and nitrogen in runoff can promote the growth of algae that compete with coral. The combination of increased sediment and nutrients runoff restricts growth and reproduction of coral. Sediment and nutrient pollutants entering the reef lagoon have increased several fold since pre-European times and are associated with vegetation clearing and agriculture. The majority of sediments and nutrients enter the reef lagoon during and following flood events. Near-shore reefs bordering the Wet Tropics and Whitsundays are most affected by runoff and are considered to be at greatest risk of further damage .

Information and Tools

Wetlands Rehabilitation Guidelines for the Great Barrier Reef Catchment

This document gives practical guidance on wetland rehabilitation for farmers, community groups, local councils, Queensland Government agencies, natural resources management bodies and the community. It covers:

  • ways to identify and classify wetlands, and determine their values
  • threats to wetlands
  • planning for wetland rehabilitation
  • practical rehabilitation techniques
  • legislative requirements
  • maintenance, monitoring and evaluation of rehabilitation.

Other resources related to this program

Program Reports