Reef Rescue – Getting ground cover right – thresholds and baselines for a healthier reef

Increasing ground cover and land condition in catchment grazing lands significantly reduces soil erosion and improves the water quality of runoff entering the Great Barrier Reef (GBR) lagoon.  But what level of cover is sufficient to ensure the health of the reef?

The project Reef Rescue – Getting ground cover right – thresholds and baselines for a healthier reef aimed to calibrate ground cover thresholds across condition classes and land types in the two largest GBR catchments, the Fitzroy and Burdekin, using ground cover and land condition datasets from a range of state and federal sources.


The project produced:

  • An improved Ground cover index (GCI) product and analysis routine that separates management from seasonal effects in grazing lands
  • Validated spatial data of ground cover and land condition
  • Enhanced land monitoring support packages and publications.

Outputs have potential use for:

  • Developing management plans for legislative purposes (e.g. Reef protection regulations)
  • Improving enterprise profitability
  • Modelling water quality
  • Modelling cost-effective grazing management options under changing climate
  • Conducting biodiversity monitoring.

Project outputs were also made available for a range of other State and Commonwealth funded initiatives (e.g. Paddock to Reef M&E , Sustainable Agriculture, and Reef Protection )

When: 1 May 2011 to 30 June 2013

Contact: Terry Beutel E:

Collaborators: Research is being conducted by Department of Agriculture and FisheriesDepartment of Environment and Science and CSIRO, in partnership with the natural resource management (NRM) groups, NQ Dry Tropics and Fitzroy Basin Association.

More information

For more information please read the:

Reef Rescue is part of the Australian Government’s Caring for our Country program and projects are conducted in partnership with regional NRM groups in the catchments bordering the Great Barrier Reef.

For information about classifying land condition and the rolling ball model .