ECY Report 2017. Final report: East Cape York shoreline environmental surveys

Duke, Norman C., and Mackenzie, Jock (2018) ECY Report 2017. Final report: East Cape York shoreline environmental surveys. External Commissioned Report. James Cook University, Townsville, QLD, Australia.

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1. This Report documents the status and major findings of the East Cape York shoreline aerial surveys lead by Dr Norm Duke and Jock Mackenzie from James Cook University (JCU) TropWATER Centre MangroveWatch Hub.

2. Aerial surveys were successfully undertaken as proposed. Survey works were achieved over 7 days between 29 May and 4 June 2017. During this time, a total time of 31.5 hours was spent on the survey acquiring specific shoreline imagery for the record and for later assessment. Observations and filming were undertaken along the far north-eastern section of the Australian shoreline using a R44 helicopter flying at an altitude of around 150 metres. The survey covered a distance of nearly 1,500 km of the Australian mainland east coast of Cape York Peninsula from just north of Cairns to the tip of Cape York; representing around 25% of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park mainland shoreline.

3. The aim of this shoreline survey was to systematically record and investigate the condition of shorelines, the mangrove vegetation, and the health of tidal wetlands in all the major estuarine systems.

4. A key outcome of the aerial survey is a baseline database or library of 52,187 geotagged oblique images covering every metre of shoreline plus a series of inland profiles extending to the upper limits of tidal inundation in 49 estuarine outlets. The number of images were roughly equal in number for shorelines (~26,653 images), and those taken on inland profiles (~25,534 images). The complete set of imagery are available for further evaluation by interested specialists who are encouraged to add further systematic search criteria, and to evaluate change in future surveys.

5. Detailed observations of current drivers of change and severity of impacts were scored at 28 major estuarine sites, from south to north including: Mowbray River, Dickson Inlet area, Daintree River, Coopers Creek area, Bloomfield River, Bauer Creek area, Walker Bay area, Annan River, Endeavour River, McIvor River, Starcke River area, Jeannie River, Muck River area, four Princess Charlotte Bay estuaries (see Note), Stewart River, Nesbit River, Lockhart River, Claudie River, Pascoe River, Hunter Inlet, Olive River, Macmillan River, Harmer River, Escape River and Jacky Jacky Creek. [Note: Marrett, Normanby, Bizant & North Kennedy Rivers in Princess Charlotte Bay were surveyed in 2015 as part of the Reef Rescue MangroveWatch eastern Normanby Basin with Kalpowar Land Trust (Mackenzie & Duke 2016)]

6. The current shoreline and estuarine evaluations identified 33 tidal wetland and shoreline habitat issues: some were associated with rising sea levels, severe and frequent storms, while others resulted from feral animals plus other seemingly uncontrolled but damaging local land management practices. Issues were divided into direct and indirect human causes, plus others not obviously related to human activities (for the most part, ‘natural’ causes). The most notable and dominant issue was shoreline retreat, coupled with landward transgressions of saline water and tidal wetland vegetation.

7. A useful outcome has been to report on previously unrecognised notable impacts on shoreline habitats along this north-eastern section of the Queensland coast. These include: a) localised impacts like severe damage to 400- 600 ha of mangroves most likely caused by Tropical Cyclones ‘Ita’ in 2014 and ‘Nathan’ in 2015 near to the Starcke River, and notable damage and impoundment of around 100 ha of mangroves most likely caused by Tropical Cyclones ‘22P’ in 2005 and/or ‘Monica’ in 2006 near to and including Night Island just north of the Nesbit River; b) generalised severe impacts like terrestrial retreat and shoreline erosion that increased from southern to northern estuaries and respective sections of shoreline – consistent with an increasing trend northward in recorded rates of sea level rise.

8. Such incidents are indicative of the state, condition and health of shorelines, and these data were used to quantify dominant environmental drivers. A robust and pragmatic classification system developed by Duke and Mackenzie (this report) quantifies ongoing and emerging environmental issues, including: impacts by feral pigs; shoreline erosion and deterioration; and landward transgression associated with saline encroachment. These are considered emerging dominant environmental issues. Such occurrences are considered to be consequences of shoreline ecosystem responses to global climate change, particularly rising sea levels.

9. These data provide overall information on condition and severe changes taking place in critical northern GBR shoreline ecosystems. Accordingly, habitat condition have been linked to specific drivers of change. This information is necessary for guiding and directing well-informed, local and national management priorities by targeting specific and identifiable issues, their severity, and their likely causes. The findings of this survey compliment pre-existing, on-going and future resource assessments of shoreline environments and intertidal wetland habitats.

10. This survey provides the first continuous recording of oblique views showing every metre of coastal shorelines of north-eastern Cape York Peninsula - as a working database of 52,187 high resolution images. This record is a lasting primary reference for baseline visual characterisations up to and after May-June 2017.

Item ID: 56006
Item Type: Report (External Commissioned Report)
Copyright Information: Copyright © 2018 James Cook University. This report is available via the publisher's website.
Date Deposited: 30 Jul 2021 01:54
FoR Codes: 41 ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES > 4104 Environmental management > 410404 Environmental management @ 40%
41 ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES > 4101 Climate change impacts and adaptation > 410102 Ecological impacts of climate change and ecological adaptation @ 30%
31 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 3103 Ecology > 310305 Marine and estuarine ecology (incl. marine ichthyology) @ 30%
SEO Codes: 96 ENVIRONMENT > 9605 Ecosystem Assessment and Management > 960503 Ecosystem Assessment and Management of Coastal and Estuarine Environments @ 40%
96 ENVIRONMENT > 9606 Environmental and Natural Resource Evaluation > 960604 Environmental Management Systems @ 30%
96 ENVIRONMENT > 9603 Climate and Climate Change > 960307 Effects of Climate Change and Variability on Australia (excl. Social Impacts) @ 30%
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