The Townsville Dry Tropics Report Card provides our community with an independent picture of the health of our waterways and Reef.
The catchment area covers a land area of about 134,000km2 and 12,000km2 of sea area. It includes the greater Townsville area and extends north to Crystal Creek and south to Alligator Creek (near Cape Cleveland). The marine area includes Cleveland Bay and Halifax Bay, Magnetic Island, the Palm Island Group, and offshore to the outer boundary of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park.
The term “dry tropics” refers to the region which has an average rainfall range of 500 mm to 1000 mm per year. Most rainfall occurs over a few weeks during the summer months. The Dry Tropics region in Queensland is typically defined by the Burdekin River watershed and waterways north and south of Townsville.
Townsville, Magnetic Island and the Palm Islands are situated within the dry tropics region of Queensland and represent the largest urban centre adjacent to the Great Barrier Reef. Our community has strong connections to the water and relies on the numerous social and economic benefits provided by our freshwater, estuarine and marine environments. The area also supports the Australian Institute of Marine Science and James Cook University, which are internationally renowned hubs for marine and coral reef science and research. The area supports the largest general cargo port in Northern Australia.
Understanding the condition of our waterways and catchments is important for identifying which areas are healthy and others which may need improving. It is also important to determine and understand the potential impacts affecting our waterways. This information will help us track improvements over time and help decision-makers target investment where it is needed most.
Our waterways, including rivers, creeks, estuaries, wetlands and the marine environment, are important to the Townsville community, for both social and economic reasons. They play a central role in the daily life of North Queensland and are important for Townsville’s productivity and liveability.
By presenting information on both environmental and socio-economic health, the report card provides a more holistic approach to waterway management. The Report Card provides a single source of information that communicates the condition of our waterways and the benefits they provide.
Report cards are released annually.
Our data is largely sourced from our Partners and includes existing government-funded monitoring programs, Port of Townsville monitoring programs and community (citizen science) data. The data is analysed by scientists and its accuracy is verified by the Reef Independent Science Panel.
Report card indicators and scoring methods used for the report card are chosen based on locally relevant data and best available science. They are selected based on how likely the data will be available within the next five years, and if they are consistent with other report card programs across Queensland.
For the 2019 Report Card, additional monitoring which includes a new litter indicator, citizen science data on hard coral cover and 14 new monitoring sites in the Black Basin have also been included.
The Report Card grades waterway health in an A-E format, similar to a school report. This system is used to show the environmental condition within each reporting region on the Report Card.
Water quality, habitat and the pressure associated with litter are individually graded for the seven zones, whilst an overall grade for the whole of Townsville is provided from the social and economic data. For more details on how the grades are determined, download the Methods for the Townsville Dry Tropics Annual Report Card and 2018-19 Results Report.
Each indicator is scored from 0 (very poor) to 100 (very good), with a very good score representing a healthy or largely unmodified environment (in respect to that indicator). Each indicator is scored using a statistical method appropriate to that indicator. These methods are devised by the Technical Officers working for each regional Report Card Partnership collaborating with relevant scientists within the Technical Working Group (TWG). They are reviewed and endorsed by the Reef Independent Science Panel.
The amount of data (sample size) is an important consideration when analysing data, with insufficient (too few) data points potentially resulting in inaccurate results. If there are insufficient samples for an indicator, the indicator will not be scored. This is to ensure the data is accurate. The sample size is considered on a case-by-case basis for each indicator.
To aggregate indicators into an indicator category and then into an index, rules have been developed to ensure there is sufficient information to accurately represent each index.
These rules are:
Overall scores for reporting zones are presented in the report card, even if not all indices are available.
The scientists within each Partnership work hard to ensure the methods to score the indicators are based on the best available science, are locally relevant, reflect changes to waterway health, and are consistent with other report card programs across Queensland. For more details about the reporting card methods, see the Methods for the Townsville Dry Tropics Annual Report Card.
Indicators are the measured feature in the ecosystem (e.g. particulate nitrogen, or dissolved oxygen).
An indicator category is generated by combining one or more related indicators (e.g. the category ‘nutrients’ is made up of both nitrogen and phosphorus).
An index is generated by combining related categories (e.g. the index ‘Water’ is made up of nutrients, water clarity and chlorophyll-a).
Reporting categories are a combination of indices. There are five reporting categories (Habitat, Water, Community, Economy and Litter) which are displayed as a ‘coaster’ within the Report Card.
An overall score is used for the community results in the place of a reporting category.
Examples of coasters are shown below.
The Report Card includes a qualitative confidence measure based on expert opinion, for each score for each indicator category within the Water and Habitat reporting categories. They are calculated using five criteria, with each criterion weighted based on their importance as shown in the table below.
Each indicator is allocated a confidence score from very low (1) to very high (5). Indicators that receive low confidence (1-3) should be viewed with caution.
Low confidence indicates that the frequency the site was sampled was low, or the data provided represents a small portion of an area. For example, water quality in the Ross and Black freshwater basins had a low confidence rating because a limited number of sites were visited, and of those sites, only three months of data were provided. The confidence for these areas is likely to increase as more surveys are conducted over time.
Copyright © 2018 Dry Tropics Partnership for Healthy Waters - All Rights Reserved. Images kindly donated by Tourism and Events Queensland/Khy Orchard; Tourism and Events Queensland/Budd Photography; Tourism and Events Queensland/Achim Wetz; Townsville Enterprise Limited/Megan MacKinnon; and Alana Lorimer. All Catchment stories are sourced courtesy of WetlandInfo (wetlandinfo.des.qld.gov.au).