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Mar Pollut Bull. 2012;65(4-9):150-66. doi: 10.1016/j.marpolbul.2012.01.002. Epub 2012 Mar 9.

Estimates of sediment and nutrient loads in 10 major catchments draining to the Great Barrier Reef during 2006-2009.

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Department of Environment and Resource Management, Ecosciences Precinct, Level 1, Block C, 41 Boggo Road, Dutton Park, Queensland 4102, Australia.


The Great Barrier Reef (GBR) catchment area has been monitored simultaneously for sediment and nutrient exports from 10 priority catchments discharging into the GBR lagoon between 2006 and 2009. This allows GBR catchment-wide exports to be estimated and spatially compared within a discrete time-frame. Elevated levels of sediment and nutrient exports were recorded in all monitored catchments as compared to pre-European estimates, but vary around previous estimates of mean annual loads. During the period of monitoring, the Burdekin and Fitzroy catchments contributed the highest sediment and nutrient exports, however when loads were normalised for area, these catchments produced the lowest unit yields. In contrast, the highest yields were produced in the wetter and proportionately more intensively cultivated Johnstone, O'Connell, and Pioneer catchments particularly for dissolved nitrogens. This assessment offers the necessary scientific foundation for future monitoring, assessment, and management of sediment and nutrient loads entering the GBR.

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