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Paddock to Reef – Integrated Monitoring, Modelling and Reporting Program

Targeting investment to improve the health of the Great Barrier Reef.

What is the Paddock to Reef program?

The Paddock to Reef Integrated Monitoring, Modelling and Reporting Program (Paddock to Reef program) started in 2009 as a joint initiative of the Australian and Queensland governments to report on water quality improvement resulting from investment in improved land management practices. Improving the quality of water leaving properties by reducing pollutant run-off is critical to build the health and resilience of the Great Barrier Reef (GBR). The program brings together industry bodies, government agencies, natural resource management bodies, landholders and research organisations.

The program provides a framework for evaluating and reporting progress towards the Reef 2050 Water Quality Improvement Plan targets. It integrates monitoring and modelling information on management practices, catchment indicators, catchment loads and the health of the Reef at the paddock, sub-catchment, catchment, regional and whole GBR scales (image below). The program evaluates management practice adoption, management practice effectiveness (in terms of water quality benefits and economic outcomes), catchment condition, pollutant run-off and marine condition.

Focus areas for the Paddock to Reef program

How does Source support the program?

The catchment modelling for the program is based on the Source platform, with customised plug-ins developed by the Queensland Government to provide additional water quality functionality. A range of other purpose-built data collection and reporting tools have also been built to support the program. These include interactive maps to show pollutant generation rates and priority investment areas.

The models are primarily used to report on annual progress towards the reef water quality targets as a result of investment in improved land management practices. Model outputs are also used to determine priority areas for investment and to assess possible outcomes from different scenarios such as different rates of adoption of improved practices. The catchment models also provide inputs for the marine models.

The Paddock to the Reef program helps manage the impacts of landuse on the quality of water flowing to the Great Barrier Reef, Qld
(credit: WITTE-ART.com / Adobe Stock)

Information sharing

Many of the actions required to achieve the water quality targets need to be undertaken by farmers and other land managers. To support greater uptake of the required actions, the Paddock to Reef program has been designed to share technical information in a way that can be easily understood and used. It also incorporates the local knowledge of land managers. Program features include:

  • Multiple lines of evidence to inform progress towards the targets.
  • Technical experts are based in the regions, giving them a good understanding of the local environment, issues and the effectiveness of management actions. This also helps build relationships with local land managers.
  • Ongoing refinement of the models and other tools to incorporate new knowledge, data and methods.
  • Results are presented online through an interactive reporting system to cater for the broad range of stakeholders interested in the results from the general public to scientific experts.
  • Data is made available to support other programs, for example regional report cards and regional natural resource management body and local government investment decisions.
  • ‘Cut down’ models provide locally specific tools to assess individual projects and prioritise local investment.

Peer review, continual improvement and validation are critical elements for any modelling program. The Paddock to Reef catchment modelling program undertakes an external review every three years. The program is supported by a GBR-wide pollutant loads monitoring program which provides data to calibrate and validate the catchment models and increase confidence in the models over time.

For further information go to Reef 2050 Water Quality Improvement Plan website https://www.reefplan.qld.gov.au/tracking-progress

Acknowledgements

This case study was prepared in collaboration with the Queensland Department of Environment and Science.