The Reef Rescue Water Quality Research and Development Program (Reef Rescue R&D) was established to improve our understanding of the link between land management practices and environmental impacts for the Great Barrier Reef (GBR). It has been a highly successful component of the Australian Government’s Reef Rescue and Reef Programme investments. The program commenced in May 2011 and a majority of the 18 projects were completed in September 2013. An additional year of funding was provided to six projects to continue components that would significantly benefit from additional time and resources, particularly in the completion of critical field work. These projects were completed at the end of 2014.
The research has delivered results directly related to the adoption and development of sustainable management practices that have water quality benefits, understanding pesticide dynamics, transport pathways and management practice efficiencies, and new approaches to monitor and report on the outcomes of investments in GBR water quality improvement. The key findings of the program are summarised in Section 2 of this report, with program highlights in Section 5. The outputs have informed other aspects of the Reef Rescue / Reef Programme and the broader Reef Plan initiative, including the on-ground water quality grants, and monitoring and reporting initiatives. Reef Rescue R&D has delivered a comprehensive suite of publications including 21 journal publications with a further 10 articles in review, and 35 Reef Rescue R&D Technical Reports. The project teams have also convened around 65 field days or industry forums and given over 100 conference and stakeholder workshop presentations about the projects.
The next steps for further R&D in this field must provide the foundation for the extension of investment for GBR water quality. We have identified the following key areas of inquiry in the GBR catchments (refer to Section 3 Priority knowledge gaps and future directions):
i. Nutrient management for cropping industries.
ii. Transitioning to non-residual herbicides and understanding pesticide risks to GBR ecosystems.
iii. Manifesting erosion management in grazing lands.
iv. Understanding and prioritising estuarine and inshore ecosystem repair.
v. Prioritising investment through cost benefit analysis and enhancing past and present investment outcomes.
The success of the Reef Rescue R&D is attributed to the development of targeted research and development priorities, the outstanding scientific rigour and commitment of the research teams and importantly, the commitment to a dedicated independent coordination and integration role for the program undertaken by the Reef and Rainforest Research Centre (RRRC). The strong integration role maintained by RRRC, linked directly with the research teams and users of the research has enabled the program to deliver highly applicable results in just two years. The RRRC fostered inter-project communication, sharing of data, links to other programs and encouraged a joint vision between the researchers and research users. Section 4 provides further information on evaluation of the delivery of Reef Rescue R&D.
In conclusion, the outputs of Reef Rescue R&D have demonstrated that an integrated program and goal orientated R&D delivers more value for reduced transaction costs. The model adopted in this first investment provides a good foundation for the implementation of future investment in GBR water quality R&D.
You can download a copy of the report here: Reef Rescue Water Quality Research and Development Program Final Program Report: Overview of research findings and program outcomes, 2011-20152.03 MB.