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Reef Water Quality Protection Plan (Reef Plan) Paddock to Reef Integrated Monitoring, Modelling and Reporting Program (Paddock to Reef Program)


The map below highlights the areas where sampling has occurred for this program.

Click on the map to view information about the drainage basins in this area.

Download points KML metadata

Paddock monitoring
catchment loads
Great barrier reef monitoring
Great Barrier Reef

Program start date

The Paddock to Reef Program commenced in early 2010.
The catchment loads monitoring component has been operating since 2005.

Program end date

The Paddock to Reef Program is currently committed until 2018, with the possibility of extension.

Objectives of the program

The Paddock to Reef Program long term goal:

  • To ensure that by 2020 the quality of water entering the Reef from broadscale land use has no detrimental impact on the health and resilience of the Great Barrier Reef.

There are a suite of management practices, catchment condition and water quality targets identified to achieve this goal.

The Reef Water Quality Protection Plan aims to:

Catchment indicators (remotely sensed):

    • Groundcover (Groundcover Index)
    • Riparian mapping of Great Barrier Reef Catchments
    • Wetlands mapping
    • Land use mapping

Marine monitoring program indicators:

    • Inshore coral reef monitoring - including coral cover, macroalgal cover, density of hard coral juveniles and settlement of coral larvae
    • Intertidal seagrass monitoring - including seagrass abundance, reproductive effort and nutrient status
    • Inshore marine water quality monitoring - including nutrients, turbidity (suspended sediment) and pesticides
    • Flood plume water quality monitoring - including nutrients, turbidity (suspended sediment) and pesticides
    • Remote sensing of water quality in the Great Barrier Reef (chlorophyll a and suspended sediments)

Further information is available on the Reef Rescue Marine Monitoring Program.

The Paddock to Reef Program also assesses the levels of adoption of improved land management practices for each of the key agricultural industries in the Reef catchments each year. This is assessed against agreed industry ABCD land management practice frameworks. For a summary of this see the land practice section of the Reef Report Card.

Scale of program

Regional, catchment and/or basin, sub-catchment and paddock scales

Brief description of sampling locations

Monitoring sites are located throughout the Cape York, Wet Tropics, Burdekin, Mackay-Whitsunday, Fitzroy and Burnett-Mary regions. Further information on the location of monitoring sites.

Frequency of monitoring

Paddock-scale and catchment-loads monitoring is event driven. Ambient sampling of catchment loads sites is also undertaken monthly. Rainfall simulation monitoring is undertaken over the mid-year period when natural rainfall is limited.

For the marine component, inshore water quality monitoring utilises standard water sampling and analysis techniques, as well as remote sensing techniques and in situ sensors with long-term data logging capacity.

    • Monitoring occurs at 14 sites in the inshore lagoon and six open water sites off Cairns two to three times per year.
    • Remote sensing of water quality uses images that are acquired on a daily basis across the Great Barrier Reef, except on overcast days. Annual means are compared to the relevant water quality guideline value to calculate the percent exceedance.
    • Pesticide concentrations are assessed at 12 sites (some of which were newly established in 2009-10) at monthly intervals in the wet season and bi-monthly intervals in the dry season using passive samplers.

Flood plume monitoring is event driven. It is carried out in marine waters adjacent to targeted catchments along a north-east transect away from the river mouth, in the wet and dry tropics depending on flood conditions. Techniques include 'grab' sampling of surface water and deployment of passive samplers for pesticides. The extent of flood plume movement across inshore waters of the Great Barrier Reef is assessed using images from aerial flyovers and remote sensing.  

Seagrass habitat status is monitored at 30 sites across 15 locations in the Great Barrier Reef, including nine inshore (intertidal coastal and estuarine) and six offshore reef intertidal locations with three transects monitored per site in both late dry and monsoon seasons. Seagrass reproductive effort (presence of seeds and the number of reproductive structures on the plant) is also assessed bi-annually.

Coral reef status is assessed at 30 inshore reefs. At each reef, two sites are monitored at two depths (2 m and 5 m) across five replicate transects. Reefs are designated as either ‘core’ or ‘cycle’ reefs, in which specific coral community attributes are assessed on an annual or biannual basis, respectively. The reefs are located in the Wet Tropics, Burdekin, Mackay Whitsunday and Fitzroy regions. Of these reefs, 15 are surveyed annually, with an additional 17 reefs surveyed every second year. Monitored reefs lie along a gradient of exposure to run-off and comprehensive water quality measurements are collected at each of the coral reef sites.

Where is the program reported?

Paddock to Reef program

Last updated: 18 November 2015

This page should be cited as:

Department of Environment, Science and Innovation, Queensland (2015) Reef Water Quality Protection Plan (Reef Plan) Paddock to Reef Integrated Monitoring, Modelling and Reporting Program (Paddock to Reef Program), WetlandInfo website, accessed 15 May 2024. Available at:

Queensland Government
WetlandInfo   —   Department of Environment, Science and Innovation