RRRD011 Capturing historic small catchment study (paddock scale) data to support quantification of management impacts on water quality on the Great Barrier Reef


Project Leader

David Freebairn
RPS Australia





GO STraight TO THE Publications From This Project

Project Overview

This project will synthesise data from historic soil management and catchment experiments to produce tables and relationships to compliment water quality modelling in Reef Rescue R&D portfolio.

Field studies of management impacts on erosion and water quality are crucial in informing science, policy and particularly farmers, yet there is a paucity of data from paddock scale studies. There has been significant research over the last 3 decades describing impacts of management on erosion and water quality, with approximately 130 historic studies identified that can support the quantification of water quality leaving farms. Poor publication and data management and lack of synthesis have resulted in the results from these studies largely being ignored. Recent experience has shown that these data can provide valuable points of truth and build credibility in model estimates of water quality signatures. In some cases the original "data collectors" are available to add context and data sets.

While each study by itself is incomplete, when put together with related data and estimates of hydrologic processes, this data increases confidence in models as surrogates for field studies. Better informed models can then be used with more confidence to provide estimates of water quality for a wide range of land uses, soil types and locations. In short, there is a mine of information that requires capture, synthesis and presentation to a wider audience.

Project Deliverables

  • Soil and management parameters for use in water balance models such as "HowLeaky?"
  • Baseline descriptions for modelling activities required in generalising field experiments. The wide geographic distribution of data sources will support localised model estimates.
  • Forums to pass this information and modelling skills on to a wider group of landscape managers and assessors. All data and reports will be available on a publically available website.

PROGRESS UPDATES for this project are summarised here

Study Areas

The data is relevant to all of the GBR catchments. All six regional NRM groups were represented on the project Reference Group.

Associated Reef Rescue R&D Research

  • Other researchers (current and past) involved in previous field based research will be able to provide their data to the project.
  • Provide input data to RRRD039 and RRRD010.
  • Search for data based on: sites, people, datasets.
  • Guidance on priorities from other projects.

Related External Research

Paddock to Reef Program, Reef Water Quality Science Program, Reef Rescue WQ Grants

As a set of products:

  • Awareness of what has been before
  • Support for ABCD framework quantifying BMPs
  • Base data to support existing studies
  • Reference datasets for modelers (APSIM, GRASP, HowLeaky?)
  • Set of documented parameter files

Publications from this Project

The Research Outcomes Report for RRRD011 is available for download via the Final Report page. This report should be cited as:

Freebairn, D.M. and Cutajar, J.L. (2013). Capturing paddock scale hydrology and water quality experiences relevant to the Great Barrier Reef (Project RRRD011). Report to the Reef Rescue Research and Development Program. Reef and Rainforest Research Centre Limited, Cairns (76pp).

Several presentations given at Reef Rescue R&D forums have summarised the project results; visit the Events page.