RRRD032 Improving grazing management practices to enhance ground cover and reduce sediment loads


Project Leader

Scott Wilkinson









Project Overview

This project investigates the causal links between grazing practices, ground cover and erosion across select land types in the Burdekin and Fitzroy catchments. It will assess the potential and priority areas for improvements in ground cover and pasture productivity, and reductions in erosion, and estimate the timescales over which such improvements may be detected, considering land condition. The project utilises a network of case-study grazing properties and investigates landscape-scale implications based on cover imagery and modelling of erosion and grass production.

Project Deliverables

  • Development of relationships for key land types between grazing practices, land cover and condition, and erosion rates.
  • Estimation of the landscape-scale impacts on erosion of future changes to grazing practices.
  • Estimation of the likely outcomes of changing grazing practices in terms of pasture productivity and beef production.
  • Building industry capacity to interpret cover products and management tools for indicating productivity and erosion resulting from grazing practices, and for identifying priorities for practice change.

PROGRESS UPDATES for this project are summarised here

Study Areas

The project had case study sites in three soil types across grazing land in the Burdekin and northern Fitzroy catchments; Chromosol (aka 'Goldfields' or granadiorites), Sodosols and Vertosols.

Associated Reef Rescue R&D Research

Related External Research

Paddock to Reef Program
  • Grazing monitoring sites in Fitzroy & Burdekin
  • Grass production modelling in the Burdekin
Reef Rescue WQ Grants
  • NQDT and FBA reef – specific work

Publications From This Project

The Research Outcomes Report for RRRD032 is available for download via the Final Report page. This report should be cited as:

Wilkinson SN, Bastin G, Stokes CJ, Hawdon AA, Kinsey-Henderson AE, Nicholas DM, Chewings VH, Abbott BN, McKellar K, Kemei J. 2014. Improving grazing management practices to enhance ground cover and reduce sediment loads. Report to the Reef Rescue R&D Program. Reef and Rainforest Research Centre Limited, Cairns (85 pp.).

Several presentations of the project results have been delivered at Reef Rescue R&D forums; visit the Events page to download the presentations.

Project Fact Sheets:

pdfLand condition outcomes from grazing land management3.42 MB


Bartley B, Wilkinson SN, Hawdon AA, Corfield JP, Abbott BN, Nelson B. 2011. From Beef to Reef: challenges and triumphs in reducing runoff and sediment yields at hillslope and watershed scales in Australian Rangelands. International Rangelands Congress.

Bartley R, Corfield JP, Hawdon AA, Kinsey-Henderson AE, Abbott BN, Wilkinson SN, Keen RJ. 2014. Can improved pasture management reduce runoff and sediment loss to the Great Barrier Reef? The results of a 10 year study in the Burdekin catchment, Australia. Rangeland Journal, 36: 67-84. http://dx.doi.org/10.1071/RJ13013.

Bartley R, Bainbridge ZT, Lewis SE, Kroon FJ, Wilkinson SN, Brodie JE, Silburn DM. 2014. Relating sediment impacts on coral reefs to watershed sources, processes and management: A review. Science of the Total Environment 468-469. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.scitotenv.2013.09.030.

Bartley R, Bainbridge ZT, Lewis SE, Kroon FJ, Wilkinson SN, Brodie JE, Silburn MD. 2014. From Coral to cows – using ecosystem processes to inform catchment management of the Great Barrier Reef. In: 7th Australian Stream Management Conference. Vietz G, Rutherfurd ID, Hughes R (Eds.), pp: 9-16.

Johnson JE, Maynard JA, Devlin MJ, Wilkinson S, Anthony KRN, Yorkston H, Heron SF, Puotinen ML, van Hooidonk R. 2013. Scientific Consensus Statement, Chapter 2. Resilience of GBR marine ecosystems and drivers of change. The State of Queensland, pp: 39 pp.

Kinsey-Henderson AE, Wilkinson SN. 2013. Evaluation of slope gradient estimates from contour-interpolated and Shuttle Radar digital elevation models, and consequences for erosion modelling Environmental Modelling & Software, 40: 128-139. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.envsoft.2012.08.010.

Kroon F, Turner R, Smith R, Warne M, Hunter H, Bartley B, Wilkinson S, Lewis S, Waters D, Carroll C. 2013. Scientific Consensus Statement, Chapter 4. Sources of sediment, nutrients, pesticides and other pollutants in the Great Barrier Reef catchment. The State of Queensland, pp: 35 pp.

Silburn DM, Wilkinson SN, Whish G, Stokes CJ, O'Reagain P, Thornton C, Hawdon AA, Kinsey-Henderson AE, Dougall C. In review. Paddock to Reef Synthesis of Management Practice Effectiveness in Grazing. The State of Queensland.

Thorburn PJ, Wilkinson S. 2010. A framework for estimating the water quality benefits of improved land management practices in Great Barrier Reef catchments. In: Challenges in Environmental Science and Engineering, Brodie J (ed.) James Cook University.

Thorburn PJ, Wilkinson SN. 2012. Water quality benefits of improved agricultural management practices (abstract). In: International Coral Reef Symposium.

Thorburn PJ, Wilkinson SN. 2013. Conceptual frameworks for estimating the water quality benefits of improved land management practices in large catchments. Agriculture Ecosystems & Environ. 180, 192-209: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.agee.2011.12.021.

Thorburn PJ, Wilkinson SN, Silburn DM. 2013. Water quality in agricultural lands draining to the Great Barrier Reef: Causes, management and priorities. Agriculture Ecosystems & Environment 180, 4-20: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.agee.2013.1007.1006.

Thorburn P, Rolfe J, Wilkinson S, Silburn M, Blake J, Gongora M, Windle J, VanderGragt M, Wegscheidl C, Ronan M, Carroll C. 2013. Scientific Consensus Statement, Chapter 5. The water quality and economic benefits of agricultural management practices. The State of Queensland, pp: 41 pp.

Wilkinson SN, Hancock GJ, Bartley B, Hawdon AA, Keen RJ. 2013. Using sediment tracing to assess processes and spatial patterns of erosion in grazed rangelands, Burdekin River basin, Australia. Agriculture Ecosystems & Environment 180, 90-102: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.agee.2012.02.002.

Wilkinson SN, Dougall C, Kinsey-Henderson AE, Searle R, Ellis R, Bartley B. 2014. Development of a time-stepping sediment budget model for assessing land use impacts in large river basins. Science of the Total Environment 468–469, 1210–1224: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.scitotenv.2013.07.049.

Wilkinson SN, Stokes CJ, Hawdon AA, Nicholas DM. 2014. Fat cows improve water quality: the benefits of higher forage levels in GBR rangelands. In: 7th Australian Stream Management Conference. Vietz G, Rutherfurd ID, Hughes R (Eds.). pp: 116—122.