Healthy Land Healthy Rivers
Did you know that 75 percent of Logan is rural or semi-rural land? How this land is managed has an impact on the quality of our environment and more widely through our waterways. Logan City Council is committed to supporting land holders through practical and easily implemented land management practices to achieve improvements in waterway condition and subsequently in the health of riparian vegetation.
The Healthy Land, Healthy Rivers project is a key initiative of 'Logan's Rivers and Wetlands Recovery Plan 2014-2024' delivered in partnership with South East Queensland's Catchments Ltd. The project's main goal is promoting productivity, lifestyle and sustainability in a way that leads land owners on the implementation of improved property management planning skills.
Property management planning
A written PMP provides an organized way to turn your vision into reality. A well thought-out PMP can help you:
- Sustain or improve the environmental condition of your land.
- Improve the productivity of your land.
- Focus your time and energy.
- Improve the value of your property.
- Apply for funding for projects on your property.
- Be aware of and understand the risks and requirements of your property.
By following this step-by-step process of developing a PMP, you will be learn more about your property and how to better manage both the built and natural assets to achieve sustainable land management.
Getting started on your property management plan
Step 1 – Develop a guiding vision for your property
Having a vision or mental picture for your property in the future is the first step towards developing a successful Property Management Plan! A few initial considerations when developing a vision may include:
- Planning scheme requirements and applicable legislation (City of Logan Planning Scheme and applicable local, state and federal legislation)
- The time and money you can potentially invest in achieving your vision
- The level of income you may want to generate from your property
- Average yearly rainfall – which may affect the type of trees or other plant species that grow well
- The soil type and topographic features
- Finding a balance between conservation and agriculture
- Where your property sites in the surrounding landscape
When crafting a vision, ask yourself:
- What do I want my property and lifestyle on my property to look like in 5, 10, or more years from now?
Action – Take some time now to develop your vision.
Tip: You may need to review your vision as you learn more about your property’s natural assets and capabilities.
Step 2 – Create a property map
Finding where your property is in the landscape and creating a map is an important second step in the PMP process. Mapping your property will help you better understand its potential and will allow you to identify:
- Built (sheds, house, cattle yards) and natural (creek lines, dams, soil type, vegetation) assets.
- Risks/concerns that you need to consider.
- Native and domestic animal needs/requirements.
Logan City Council mapping tools
Logan Interactive Mapping Tool – This is the Logan Planning Scheme’s Interactive Mapping Tool. The tool displays key maps from the Logan Planning Scheme to assist with planning and development enquires in Logan City. You can easily:
- Find your property and review the zone(s), local plan and overlays which may apply;
- Print a property report and print the map (including anything you have drawn on it);
- Review and print an estimate of development fees for a proposed development on a selected site;
Tip: For more information, please refer to the User Guide on the website, or contact Council on (07) 3412 4247.
Logan City’s Waterways and Catchments Mapping Tool – This mapping tool allows you to find your property and bring up information about where your property is in the catchment. The tool displays:
- Catchment and subcatchment information (what creek catchment your property lies in, how large the creek catchment is, how long the creek is, where it flows to etc.
- Basemaps including aerial imagery of your property
- Suburbs the catchment and subcatchment incorporates
- Parks to visit
Revegetation Mapping Tool – Council can generate a property report that includes:
- A regional ecosystem specific species list
- Information on plant forms, size, and micro-habitat preferences
- Plant supplier details
- A map showing the Regional Ecosystem zones on the property
- A general site establishment and maintenance advice sheet
Tip: Please contact the Environment and Sustainability Branch on 3412 3412 or email email@example.com to request for a revegetation map, guide and additional information.
Logan City Council is in the process of developing a number of mapping tools to help property owners better manage their natural assets.
Relevant State Government mapping tools
The Queensland Government – you can request property reports and vegetation maps including:
- Regulated vegetation management maps – show vegetation categories needed to determine clearing requirements. Maps are updated monthly to show new property maps of assessable vegetation
- Supporting maps are provided as attachments when you request a regulated vegetation management map. They give information on regional ecosystems, wetlands, watercourses and essential habitat
- Land suitability maps are needed to apply to clear for irrigated and non-irrigated high-value agriculture
The Department of Environment and Heritage Protection - The department produces a range of environmental and natural resource data that is made available to its customers. You can request property maps including:
WetlandMaps – This is an interactive maps and wetland data tool in Queensland. The mapping tool can produce a map and associated report based on the mapping layers that you select. Examples of the mapping layers are:
- Queensland Floodplain Assessment Overlay
- Regional Ecosystems Overlay
- Soils Overlay
- Drainage Soils Overlay
- Geology Overlay
- Regional Ecosystem Property Maps – Regional ecosystem maps showing the biodiversity status and/or the broad vegetation group are available for free. You can request a map online using property details or central coordinates. You will then receive the map by email in PDF.
Action – Take some time to explore these websites to see what maps may be relevant for your property and overall vision.
Step 3 – Learn more about your property’s attributes and resources
The third step is to gather relevant information about your property and its resources. Council’s ‘Healthy Land, Healthy Rivers’ website provides helpful information to help you achieve your PMP. You will find general information on:
- Property Management Planning
- Animals: horses, cattle, poultry, sheep pigs and links to best management practices of each
- Plants: importance of riparian (plants along a watercourse) vegetation, revegetation techniques etc.
- Water: factors to consider (water availability, water quality, offsite impacts), licences and permit requirements
- Soils and erosion: understanding slope, aspect, soils, soil structure etc.
Other useful information provided on the web site includes links to government sources, catchment organisation websites that contain further resources, as well as the Logan City Council events calendar where you can find out about events and training to assist you with your property management planning.
Ask us how: Logan City Council run free events and activities which include Natural Resource Management workshops. To subscribe to the E-Newsletter.
More to come: This website is currently under review, if you believe there should be more information on here, please speak to a Logan City Council Officer today to discuss.
Step 4 - Setting your goals and objectives
In step 1 of this guideline you were challenged to develop a clear vision for your property, aligned to your lifestyle needs and the land capability, and one that describes what you want your property and associated lifestyle to look like in 5, 10, or more years from now. Your vision may encompass food production, animal husbandry, sustainable forestry, or conservation, such as ‘Land for Wildlife’ - or a combination of these. In step four, let’s start to set some goals and objectives to turn your vision into reality.
Your goal setting should consider four main components. Here are those components, along with an example goal for each:
- Social goal: To be able to leave the property for two weeks at a time
- Financial goal: To make the maintenance of the property cost neutral. That is, to generate sufficient income to offset maintenance specific costs
- Production goal: To maximise our return on investment in growing produce through organic certification
- Natural resource goal: The natural environment on our property is healthy and supports native flora and fauna
The number and focus of your goals should be a clear reflection of your property vision. Where is your ‘hot spot’?
A key attribute of your own property goals should be that they can be assessed as being ‘true’ or ‘not true’, and those that remain ‘not true’ at any given point in time require further objectives and action plans created.
Tip: Take some time now to develop your own property goals.
Now let’s look at developing a series of objectives to help you achieve your goals!
Each of the property goals you have determined will likely require a number of objectives that lead to its ultimate achievement. Let’s take the example goal ‘to be able to leave the property for two weeks at a time’, and consider some objectives that will start to lead you towards achieving that goal.
Goal: The natural environment on our property is healthy and supports native flora and fauna
|Objective 1||To ensure over-grazing of areas assigned to stock does not occur|
|Objective 2||To minimise the risk of unwanted fire affecting grazing areas or areas put aside for native plant regeneration|
|Objective 3||To control invasive weeds|
Tip: Take some time now to develop a set of objectives aligned to your property goals.
Once you have a set of objectives that address all of your goals, you’ll likely need to prioritise your objectives. Here is an example of how you might go about that.
Prioritising your objectives
By assigning a simple scoring system and pragmatically considering each objective you should be able to develop an optimum list of your property management priorities
Using a simple scoring system to prioritise
|Difficulty||How easy or hard will it be to achieve the objective||Assign a score of 5 for easy through to 1 for hard|
|Impact||What level of positive impact will the objective achieve?||Assign a score of 5 for a major positive impact through to 1 for a limited impact|
|Resources required||How much time do you need to invest to achieve the objective?||Assign a score of 5 for the least investment required|
|How much money do you need to invest to achieve the objective?||Assign a score of 5 for the least investment required|
The comparative scoring and subsequent prioritising of your objectives is obviously subjective, but this approach simply aims to facilitate the proper consideration of each element, and to help determine where you might get the best overall result from your investment and time and money.
It’s best to develop a complete set of objectives covering all your property goals before undertaking the scoring.
An example of scoring the priority of objectives
|Objective||Difficulty||Impact||Time resources required||Money resources required||Overall score|
|1||To ensure over-grazing of areas assigned to stock does not occur||3||5||4||5||17|
|2||To minimise the risk of unwanted fire affecting grazing areas or areas put aside for native plant regeneration||2||4||4||2||14|
|3||To control invasive weeds||1||3||1||3||8|
Step 5 - Creating your action plans
In step 5 you will be creating action plans which may include tackling things such as:
- Construction of a fence to manage animals or protect a sensitive area
- Construction of shelter, yards or watering points for your animals
- Revegetation, or promotion of natural regeneration of native flora
- Weed or animal pest control
- Restoration of eroded areas, or erosion mitigation works
- Establishing income streams such as food cultivation or sustainable forestry production
Each action item you create should focus on something quite specific and should be achievable within any time and financial restrictions you might have. You may need one or several actions to reach any given objective. The tables below provides example objectives and actions, and shows the linkage between them.
Linking objectives and action plans
To ensure over-grazing of areas assigned to stock does not occur
Implement cell grazing through the installation of electric fences
To minimise the risk of unwanted fire
Create an indicative, sustainable stocking level and rotation plan
Building boundary fire tracks
To control invasive weeds
Create and maintain slashed tracks around grazing paddock fence lines
Identify and document a types and extent of invasive weeds
Create a weed control plan, including priorities, control methods, and seasonal cost estimates
Example action plan
Install an additional water trough in the north-west paddock
By end of September 2016
Poly pipe etc. $100
Install security system and deterrent signage
By end of March 2017
System + installation $1,800
1-day (oversight installation)
Tip: Take some time now to develop an initial set of action plans.
You can use a simple scoring system such as that outlined earlier in this document to help prioritise your action list.
Step 6 - Developing a financial budget for your property management plan
To ensure the success of your property plan it’s important to know you can fund your proposed actions, so let’s look at some of the possible areas where you’ll need to invest, and then at the income side of your property management cash flow.
Understanding your property management costs
In developing a cash flow for your property management, a good starting point is to consider your day-to-day property maintenance costs. These might include infrastructure repairs, weed and erosion control, and equipment maintenance.
Other cost categories might include animal husbandry, new or replacement equipment, new infrastructure, or vegetation development such as pasture or native flora development.
Identifying new income opportunities
As you learn more about the capabilities of your property, and in particular the type of soils, you may start to think about the opportunities for generating income - to perhaps simply cover your maintenance costs, or as an additional lifestyle contribution.
Opportunities might include:
- Raising / breeding animals
- Growing crops, fruit, vegetables, or flowers
- Planting trees for sustainable forestry
Things to consider as you think about new income opportunities include:
- Your property vision – including lifestyle - and the goals you have established
- Land and location suitability, including rainfall and / or groundwater availability
- Council or other administrative constraints
- Start-up and ongoing costs
- Ongoing time investment and physical effort required
Once you have a specific income opportunity in mind, you should consider preparing a detailed business plan to test the validity of your thinking.
Develop a cash-flow chart
Now you have a set of goals and action plans, considered your property management costs and thought about Identifying new income opportunities, it’s time to build a cash flow chart.
An example of a cash flow chart can be found in Appendix 1. As you assemble your chart, consider:
- On-hand capital
- Disposable income you will assign to your property management plan from off-property work or on-property revenue streams
- Loans or grants
- Property maintenance and capital project costs
Step 7 - Turning your property management plan into reality
To ensure the success of your property management plan, it’s important to revisit your goals and action plans, and ensure they are prioritised, as well as being balanced across your social, financial, production, and natural resource management needs and expectations. Are they:
- Practical and achievable
- Congruent, that is, in harmony with each other
- And affordable?
Over-use by animals, including livestock, can deplete soil and vegetation, affect water quality and reduce land productivity. To improve soil quality it is important to stabilise loose soil, prevent erosion and get manure to penetrate and replenish the soil. Rotational grazing is an excellent way to enhance your land's environmental condition and productivity.
Horses are a popular lifestyle choice in Logan and you can do much to improve the impact they have on your land. You can find further information on the following links:
- Land For Wildlife factsheet (PDF 628 KB)
- Articles from South Australian Government: Management in Arid Zones (PDF 1687 KB); Management in Tropical Zones (PDF 1745 KB); and Keys to success in managing horses (PDF 487 KB) fact sheet
- SEQ Catchment program – Healthy Land, Healthy Horses
Other relevant information can be found on the following links:
- (South Australian Government fact sheets)
Cattle should be kept away from over-grazing important stabilising vegetation particularly near river banks, streams and water run off areas. They should also be spelled to rest pastures and make the most of your land. You can find further information on the following links:
- Pasture management in South-East Queensland
- Grazing Best Management Practices (PDF 1496 KB) factsheet/self-assessment
- Managing Environmental Issues – Qld Government
- Beef and Dairy
- Cattle husbandry practices - NSW Government
Other relevant information can be found on the following links:
- (NSW Government)
Poultry make great pets, control pests and provide eggs. You can find further information about good poultry management practices on the following links:
Be mindful that goats eat everything as high as they can reach on their hind legs so vegetation you need to keep should be fenced off particularly near waterways. You can find further information on the following links:
- The Feral Goat (PDF 655 KB) (Federal Government facts sheet)
- Goat management and production (NSW Government)
You can find information on sheep management practices on the following links:
- Sheep (NSW Government)
You can find information on pigs management practices on the following links:
- Managing Environmental Impacts (Qld Government)
- Pig Housing and Environmental Issues (NSW Government)
- Managing Stream Frontages (PDF 261 KB) (Department of Agriculture and Fisheries (QLD))
- Managing Livestock and Pets (Hunter Valley Catchment Management Association)
- A Practical Guide to Rural Land Management (PDF 7152 KB) (SA Government)
There is a great diversity of native plant species to be found in Logan, ranging from grasses and herbs to shrubs, trees and rainforest plants.
- Regional Ecosystems – property managers can work out which plants naturally grow on their land prior to clearing on the Department of Environment and Heritage Protection website
- Native Plant information can be found via the links on the Australian Government website
- Weed information can be found on the Queensland Government and New South Wales government websites
- Weed Control and Management Land For Wildlife factsheets.
- Revegetation information is available:
The edges of wetlands, creeks and drainage lines are commonly referred to as riparian zones. They occur whether the water bodies are permanent or temporary (for example many wetlands experience natural drying out periods). These riparian areas are highly important components of the landscape that require careful management to maintain and improve their condition.
Healthy vegetation consisting of a mixture of trees, shrubs, tussocks, grasses and rushes can help to prevent flood damage and maintain the integrity of stream banks. These riparian areas provide important habitat for a broad range of plant and animal species. It is important to note that on floodplains, trees and shrubs may be sparse or absent from riparian areas and creek banks are stabilised with tussocks (Phragmites and Juncus), rushes and water-adapted grasses. It is important to choose the right plant for the location, contact Council for advice prior to planting.
Many of these vegetation communities are sensitive to disturbance, vulnerable to weed invasion and are not well adapted to fire. Forming a link between land and water ecosystems, riparian lands are very important in slowing water velocity, stablising streambanks, and reducing erosion. Riparian vegetation acts as a water filter and is important in maintaining water quality, and nutrient and algal growth. Special attention should be given to the management and protection of riparian zones to prevent soil erosion and to protect and improve water quality.
Large woody debris is an important component of many streams that assists in the healthy functioning of streams and waterways. It includes masses of vegetation such as full trees, shrubs, trunks, branches, tree heads or root balls, which have been washed into rivers, streams, or onto the floodplain. Large woody debris is very important in slowing the velocity of streams, reducing overall erosion and improving structural stability. The localised erosion that can occur around large woody debris is important for the ecology and structural diversity of streams and rivers, and forms essential habitat and breeding areas for aquatic animals such as fish and terrestrial animals such as birds.
Twelve good reasons to manage your riparian lands with care:
- Reduced erosion
- Improved water quality
- Healthy ecosystems
- Maintaining river courses
- Better stock management
- Decrease in insect pests
- Increase in capital values
- Opportunities for diversification
- Retention of nutrients
- Lowered water tables
- Increased fish stocks
- Decreased algal growth
Water is a critical resource for the environmental and economic viability of the Logan Catchment. In the past ground and surface water resources have become stressed as the demand on them exceeds supply, whch may have resulted in lower levels of production and reduced or non-existent environmental flows for waterways. Environmental flows are now protected under the Water Act via Water Resource Plans. Discussed below are a number of ways to use water to the benefit of you and your land.
Off-stream watering. Using fencing, pumps, gravity-fed lines (including water tanks) and dams to water your livestock is a sound investment. By preventing access to waterways you can minimise erosion, prolong the life of your pastures and improve water quality in streams. Off-stream watering also allows you to add nutrients to the water for improved production.
Farm Dams. Three major factors need to be considered:
- Water availability
- Water quality
- Offsite impacts (e.g. nutrient rich runoff, aquatic weeds, salinity or soil erosion)
A reliable water supply is an important consideration for a rural property and can have a significant impact on the way you use and enjoy your property. Farm dams are one of the most common ways of providing water for domestic, stock and irrigation purposes. Utilising farm dams and off-stream watering points can help to preserve riparian and instream environments from the impact of domestic livestock.
A good farm dam is a valuable asset that will service your water requirements in most seasons with minimum maintenance costs. Proper planning will ensure that the construction and operation of the dam will be a success. The main consideration is to provide enough water for your farming operations in an efficient (cost-effective) manner.
Professional advice is recommended for all dam projects and is particularly critical for larger storages.
The basic steps in planning a farm dam are:
- Estimating water requirements
- Selecting a dam site
- Estimating the catchment yield
- Checking the yield will meet water requirements
- Investigate suitability of site, e.g. by-wash, cut-off and construction materials
- checking for licensing and other regulatory requirements
Water requirements – how much do I need?
Water requirements will vary according to location and the proposed use of the water. A rough estimate can be obtained using the following:
- Domestic: 220 litres/person/day
- Cattle: 55 litres/head/day
- Irrigation: 4,000,000 to 8,000,000 litres/ha/yr/crop
- Allowance should also be made for evaporation, wind and seepage losses. Seepage losses will vary for individual sites depending on geology and soil types whilst evaporation from a water surface can range from 1400 mm to 2900mm annually depending on the location.
Licences and permits
Landholders need to be aware that the State Government has placed restrictions on actions that "take or interfere iwth water" i.e. the construction of dams on properties or irrigation in the Moreton Region which includes the Logan Catchment. This means that if you are planning to construct a new dam that will take overland flow water; you will need to comply with a self-assessable code specified by the Department of Natural Resources and Mines. A Water Licence and a Development Permit from the Department of Natural Resources and Mines may be required for various water activities depending on their location and size. In addition, other permits may be required from the Logan City Council and the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries. Contact Council to check which licences and permits are applicable to your situation.
What I can do:
- Work out the amount of water that is required for the different activities on my property;
- Adjust the number of livestock and level of horticultural and other activities to water availability;
- Determine if the land is suitable for constructing a dam and whether it will contribute to salinity outbreaks;
- Check whether a permit or licence is required to construct a dam;
- Measure water quality – to identify its suitability for livestock, gardens or agriculture;
- Fence off dams to exclude livestock; and
- Buffer dams and wetlands with native vegetation to slow water flows, intercepts nutrients, and prevent erosion.
Other useful information about dams:
- Managing stock around waterways (PDF 218 KB)
- Dams in Logan (PDF 914 KB) (information and required approvals) - Logan City Council
- Dam construction (PDF 156 KB) (Qld Government)
- General information (NSW Government)
Flooding - have floods destroyed your creeks and degraded your lands?
Here is some information about what you can do to reduce the effects of flooding on your property:
- Natural assets for flood and cyclone mitigation (PDF 261 KB)
- Natural assets for flood and cyclone resilience (PDF 327 KB)
Soils and erosion
The natural resources of your property determine to a large extent what it is capable of being used for. Natural resources include the land and its underlying geology, soils, vegetation – both native and exotic, and water. Closely related to natural resources is climate, which can have a major impact on property management practices.
Steeper slopes require careful management as there is an increase in runoff, decreased infiltration and subsequent reduction in soil water storage potential. Many soils on steep slopes just wash away if cultivated, stripped of vegetation, overgrazed or disturbed in some other way. The greater the slope the greater the velocity of water that can run off which increases the likelihood of erosion if soil surfaces are left unprotected by vegetation. In general, hills are more suited to grazing and tree planting, whereas valleys are more suited to crops except in flood prone areas.
The direction your block faces influences soil erosion and vegetation characteristics of your property. Northern slopes generally provide better winter growth due to direct exposure to the sun, while southern slopes produce better summer growth due to less exposure to the sun which extends the growing season.
If your property is exposed to winter westerly winds, you may be prone to soil erosion and other damage due to wind. Windbreaks and adequate vegetation cover on the soil is important.
The soils on your property can be your greatest asset. It is important to understand the characteristics of your soils in order to know what they are capable of doing for you.
There is a wide variety of soil characteristics in the Logan catchment and, therefore, a diverse range of things able to be done with the land. Be aware that soil types and associated properties can differ significantly from one side of the road to the other. Depending on what you plan to do with your property, it may be useful to have a soil test done to determine the nutrient status of the soil, which can also assist in matching the use of the land to the soil type. If we do not use our soil appropriately, we could expect soil erosion, nutrient loss and structural damage which will limit the productivity of the soil.
The structure of soil determines the amount of air and water a soil can hold. Clay, silt and sand minerals in soils join together to form aggregates called peds. These peds give soil its structure. The rate of infiltration of water into a soil depends on the structural stability of the surface soils. Soils with weak or no structure can reduce water intake and increase water runoff resulting in erosion.
The texture of a soil refers to the size of the soil particles and the ratios of sand, silt and clay within a soil. It can be used to determine the plant available water holding capacity. Clay textured soils have higher water holding capacity when compared with soils of a sandy texture. Large changes in texture between the topsoils and the subsoil can lead to water drainage problems.
Soil depth is a major determining factor (along with soil texture and structure) on the quality of water and nutrients that can be stored for the growth of plants. Plant growth on shallow soils is limited by sufficient water storage. Shallow soils are often not viable for agriculture or can erode quickly when disturbed.
Good soil organic matter makes for healthy soil and healthy plants. Organic matter is made up of dead and decaying plant materials, animals and animal products. It provides food for the beneficial microorganisms and creatures that live in the soil and it also binds the soil together. Organic matter influences the ease of water to enter the soil, the ability of the soil to store water, to facilitate air flow and to increase nutrient availability.
Organic matter on the soil surface (such as wheat stubble residues) protects the surface from the action of raindrops, reducing surface compaction and hard setting. Continuous cropping and cultivation can diminish organic matter in the soil very quickly, leading to soil structural decline.
Land and soils
There is a strong relationship between the underlying geology of the Logan Catchment and the soils present. Soil properties and characteristics determine to a large extent the use of the land. There is a diversity of soil types in the Logan Catchment, ranging from highly fertile deep alluvial soils in the valleys to low fertility, shallow, highly erodible soils in some upland areas. This means that an understanding of these characteristics and properties is required if the soil resource is to be managed sustainably.
The maintenance of the soil resource is a key requirement in a rural community, which depends on it for its livelihood. Soil naturally forms at a very slow rate, so any soil losses today will be a cost to the community for many generations to come.
Major erosion and sediment movement events are strongly episodic in the Logan Catchment and result from intense heavy rains and associated flooding.
What can be done
There are a number of management actions that landholders can implement to minimise the loss of soil from their property and to improve soil health. These actions include:
- Determine if the soils on my property are prone to erosion;
- Keep the amount of bare ground to a minimum;
- Maintenance of good groundcover (greater than 70%);
- Minimise the amount of time soil is cultivated and maintaining groundcover (i.e. crop residue) where achievable, using minimum till and sod agriculture where possible;
- Ensure that water is not unnaturally concentrated;
- Graze conservatively and only allow limited stock access to high-risk areas; and
- Seek advice and treat erosion areas sooner rather than later.
Soil erosion is one of the most common and serious forms of land degradation in the Logan Catchment. It can be prevented or minimised. Here are some publications to tell you how:
- SEQ Catchments factsheets
- What causes streambed erosion? (PDF 632 KB)
- What causes bank erosion? (PDF 148 KB)
- Types of erosion (Qld Government)
- CSIRO Australian Soil Resource Information System.
Soil erosion is a major concern in many rural areas as it can occur in a variety of landscapes. Serious and widespread soil erosion by wind and water occurs when ground cover is lacking, particularly during the summer months when high intensity storms are more common. Although erosion is a natural phenomenon, rates of erosion currently occurring in the region are now much higher than in pre-European times.
Soil erosion has the potential to impact downstream on creeks, rivers, reservoirs, lakes, estuarine and marine environments. The costs of erosion are varied, the most obvious being repairs to fences, roads, driveways and contour banks, but there are also the less obvious costs in soil fertility loss, lower crop yields, reduced water quality and reduced land value.
Areas of active erosion within the Logan Catchment are associated with new subdivisions and heavy grazing pressure on ridge areas and roads. It starts when land management practices cause increased and concentrated flows of surface run-off, or remove protective layers from the soil surface. The poor state of creek bank vegetation in some areas is also contributing to erosion.
Dense groundcover can greatly reduce erosion.
There are a number of different types of erosion including gully, sheet, rill and tunnel erosion.
Sheet erosion can be difficult to recognise but is responsible for extensive soil loss in both cultivated and non-cultivated environments. It is a potential hazard on all soils in the Logan Catchment; however bare areas such as heavily grazed hillsides or cultivation are more susceptible. Continued sheet erosion of shallow topsoils can expose less stable, highly dispersive subsoils which are prone to more severe erosion. Sheet erosion occurs as a shallow ‘sheet’ of water flowing over the ground surface taking with it a layer of soil and also available nutrients and organic matter.
Rill erosion results from the concentration of surface water (sheet erosion) into deeper, faster-flowing channels. As the flow becomes deeper the velocity increases detaching soil particles and scouring channels up to 30cm deep form. Rill erosion represents the intermediate process between sheet and gully erosion.
Gully erosion is an advanced stage of rill erosion where surface channels have eroded to the point where they cannot be removed by tillage operations. Gully erosion is responsible for removing large amounts of soil, damaging farmland, roads and bridges and reducing water quality by increasing the sediment load in streams. Gully initiation is thought to be intensified by the removal of vegetation. The collapse and slumping of the sidewalls of the gully usually contributes the greatest proportion of soil loss.
Tunnel erosion is a subsurface form of erosion which occurs when water scours underground channels through highly erodible, dispersive subsoils while initially leaving the surface soil relatively intact. Water enters through areas which may have been weakened or disturbed by tree roots, fence post holes, animal burrows or land management practices. In time the surface can collapse causing gully erosion. Tunnel erosion can occur in areas where the subsoil rests on an impermeable soil layer and erodes more easily than the topsoil. Often the dispersed subsoil is deposited further downhill. These ‘tunnels’ then collapse and form open gullies.
Preventing and remediating erosion
Trees have a potential role to play in stabilising and rehabilitating eroded sites. However, trees are only part of a rehabilitation plan which should also include increasing groundcover with shrubs and grasses, managing animal access and, in some cases, remedial earthworks. Tree planting or regeneration should be one of the last steps used to effectively combat soil erosion. Activities such as fencing, diversion banks, shaping of the banks and grass cover establishment may be required prior to woody vegetation establishment. Advice should be sought from Department of Environment and Resource Management or suitably qualified officers before attempting to stabilise active gully, rill and tunnel erosion. Wherever possible, use local native plant species for rehabilitation works as they have the advantage of being adapted to local conditions.
Characteristics that can predispose soils to water erosion include:
- Little or no structure
- High silt and fine sand content
- Low levels of organic matter
- Low infiltration of water due to crusting and hard setting soils (rainfall tends to flow over the surface rather than soak into the soil)
- Highly dispersible soils that lack cohesion when exposed to water and rapidly collapse to slurry. These features can all be natural characteristics of the soil, but soils can also become more prone to erosion through poor management. For example, overgrazing can reduce organic matter, permeability and soil structure
Two key principles in managing problem soils to avoid erosion are:
- Maintain ground cover
- Avoid disturbance
What I can do:
- Determine if the soils on my property are prone to erosion
- Keep the amount of bare ground to a minimum
- Maintain good ground cover vegetation on my property
- Graze conservatively and only allow limited stock access to high-risk areas i.e. riparian zones
- Seek advice and treat erosion areas sooner rather than later
Soil pH is one of the most important soil properties that affects the availability of nutrients. It is measured on a scale of one to fourteen with seven being neutral, less than seven, acidic and greater that seven, alkaline. A pH of around six to seven is considered ideal for the majority of plants with nutrients being more readily available to plants. It is a good idea to have your soil tested if you plan on growing crops or pasture. Doing so will enable you to get a report that explains how much lime and fertiliser will be needed for optimum plant growth. Nutrient availability to plants is influenced by soil pH.
Fencing can help to prevent erosion and enhance pastoral productivity.
- Managing stream frontages (PDF 261 KB) – QLD Government
- Hunter Valley NSW Government – Rural-residential living information
- Department Agriculture and Food WA (2015) “Fencing for Beginners”
- Fauna Friendly Fencing factsheet (PDF 190 KB) - Brisbane City Council
- Fauna Friendly Fencing factsheet (PDF 215 KB) - Redland City Council
Fire has an important and positive role to play in Australia and can be managed with thoughtful planning. Although bushfires can have significant impacts on life and property, planned burns such as fuel reduction burns and ecological burns can be beneficial.
Factors to consider before carrying out planned burns include topography, drought index, density and type of flora; wind direction and velocity, frequency and intensity of burns. Fuel load management that does not include fire is important and can be achieved through measures such as slashing, weed control, establishing fire trails and fire breaks.
The most important consideration is managing fire (both controlled burns and uncontrolled fires) to protect life, property, stock and ecological values. The following links provide some information on how to manage fire on your property:
- SEQ Fire and Biodiversity Consortium
- Research conducted by CSIRO, on the rehabilitation of wetlands in Northern Australia using fire is providing insight into the use of fire (and intricate knowledge of plant species and local environment) enhance the productivity of land
- Queensland Fire Service
Effective waste management is vital to enhancing our natural environment and property condition. For some basic principles on rural waste management, please refer to the following information:
- Council's Chemical Drop Off Days
- Hunter Valley rural-residential information
- QLD Government waste hierarchy and storing and transporting hazardous chemicals
Sustainable organic farming
Organic farming is the practice of cultivating food and materials without using man-made chemicals. While this process requires approvals for accreditation, the ideology and techniques can be used to achieve best practice land management and provide great yields and ultimately, sustainable outcomes.
Please see the links below for information regarding organic farming:
- Agricultural Research Archive
- Environmental Rural Land Management
- Managing grazing lands in Queensland (PDF 641 KB)
- Land management information
- Information for new rural landholders
- Best Practice Land Management Guideline for small grazing properties (PDF 1496 KB)
- Ground cover for agriculture
- CSIRO –national research organisation Farming and Food Production
- Hunter Valley Catchment Association
- OCCA run an Integrated Catchment Management (ICM) program in the Oxley Creek catchment
- SEQ Catchments provide advice, training, support, services and workshops for the community
- LARC are community based, have continuity and local links as well as a experience and provide support
- Healthy Waterways organise events and report on the conditions of waterways and catchments
- Mangrove Watch are an organisation educating about and monitoring mangrove conditions