Combining contemporary and long-term erosion rates to target erosion hot-spots in the Great Barrier Reef, Australia

Bartley, Rebecca, Croke, Jacky, Bainbridge, Zoe T., Austin, Jenet M., and Kuhnert, Petra M. (2015) Combining contemporary and long-term erosion rates to target erosion hot-spots in the Great Barrier Reef, Australia. Anthropocene, 10. pp. 1-12.

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Methods for prioritising catchment remediation are based on understanding the source of sediment over the short-medium timescales (10–102 years) using techniques such as sediment finger-printing, sediment flux monitoring, and catchment modelling. Because such approaches do not necessarily quantify the natural variation in sediment flux over the longer timescale, they often represent background or pre-agricultural erosion rates poorly. This study compares long-term (∼100 to >10,000 years) erosion rates derived from terrestrial cosmogenic nuclides (10Be) with contemporary erosion rates obtained by monitoring sediment fluxes over #11x10#10 years. The ratio of these two data sets provides a measure of the accelerated erosion factor (AEF), which can be used to identify erosion hot-spots at the sub-catchment scale. The study area is the Burdekin catchment, the largest source of contemporary sediment to the Great Barrier Reef lagoon. Long-term erosion rates vary from <0.0077 mm yr−1 in the Suttor and Belyando sub-catchments to 0.0296 mm yr−1 in the Bowen. The contemporary erosion rates are highest on small hillslopes with patchy ground cover (0.2726 mm yr−1) and in the Bowen sub-catchment (0.2207 mm yr−1), and lowest in the Belyando sub-catchment (0.0019 mm yr−1). All but two of the sub-catchment sites have an AEF > 1.0, indicating higher contemporary erosion rates than estimated long-term averages. Results confirm that the contemporary or agriculturally-induced erosion rates at these sites have increased considerably. Within the context of the Reef Water Quality Protection Plan, these results provide justification for water quality targets to be set at the sub-catchment scale, particularly for large and geomorphically diverse catchments.

Item ID: 43522
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 2213-3054
Keywords: sediment, 10Be, land use, reef plan
Funders: CSIRO Land and Water Flagship, North Queensland Dry Tropics, Australian Government Marine and Tropical Sciences Research Facility (MTSRF), James Cook University (JCU), CSIRO OCE Julius Award, Queensland Department of Science, Information Technology, Innovation and the Arts, Meat and Livestock Australia (MLA)
Date Deposited: 30 Mar 2016 03:37
FoR Codes: 05 ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES > 0502 Environmental Science and Management > 050209 Natural Resource Management @ 50%
05 ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES > 0503 Soil Sciences > 050302 Land Capability and Soil Degradation @ 50%
SEO Codes: 96 ENVIRONMENT > 9609 Land and Water Management > 960902 Coastal and Estuarine Land Management @ 35%
96 ENVIRONMENT > 9611 Physical and Chemical Conditions of Water > 961102 Physical and Chemical Conditions of Water in Coastal and Estuarine Environments @ 30%
96 ENVIRONMENT > 9605 Ecosystem Assessment and Management > 960503 Ecosystem Assessment and Management of Coastal and Estuarine Environments @ 35%
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