Tree clearing continues to threaten the reef

Study finds alarming land clearing continuing in Great Barrier Reef catchments

Tree clearing in environmentally-sensitive catchment areas of our iconic Great Barrier Reef is continuing at disturbingly high levels, according to new Queensland Government data released today.

Acting Premier Jackie Trad today released the 2014-2015 Statewide Land Cover and Tree Study (SLATS) which reveals the rate of clearing in the Great Barrier Reef catchments had increased by 46 per cent since 2011-2012.

“The latest SLATS report confirms tree clearing is continuing at the unacceptable level of almost 300,000 hectares per year since the LNP gutted Labor’s responsible tree clearing laws in 2013. That is approximately 360,000 Rugby League football fields every single year,” Ms Trad said.

“Alarmingly, 108,000 hectares was cleared in Great Barrier Reef catchment areas in 2014-15. This represents more than a third of the vegetation cleared statewide and requires immediate action.

“Our proposed vegetation management laws are effective and balanced and will protect the Reef from this reckless clearing.

“They will protect the environment and allow our agricultural industry to thrive with the majority of farmers unaffected by the reinstatement of our nation leading laws. In fact, the sector grew by more than $2 billion in sector profitability under the decade of Labor’s tree clearing laws.

“The LNP should stop scaremongering and playing politics. They need to join us in safeguarding the Great Barrier Reef before it’s too late.”

Environment Minister Steven Miles said the continuing high level of land clearing threatened the Great Barrier Reef.

“These figures ram home how urgent it is that we reduce clearing right across Queensland, and especially the Great Barrier Reef catchments,” Dr Miles said.

“This vegetation is vital in reef catchments because it holds riverbanks together, meaning sediment isn’t flushed onto the Reef.

“Sediment making its way to the reef, settles on the coral and suffocates it. It also clouds the water, reducing the amount of sunlight reaching the coral and both of these reduce the ability of the coral to be resilient to other threats.

“We know that land clearing is a key contributor to greenhouse gas emissions and at a time when the rest of the world is reducing their emissions, Queensland is driving up Australia’s rates thanks to the LNP’s land clearing laws.”

The 2014-2015 SLATS report found:

  • The total statewide woody vegetation clearing rate was 296 000* hectares per year (ha/year) compared to 153 638 in 2011-12
  • The clearing rate of Great Barrier Reef (GBR) catchments was 108 000 ha/year, increasing by 46% since 2011-12
  • The clearing of highest conservation value vegetation (remnant) was 114 000 ha/year, compared to 34 590 in 2011-12
  • Only 29% of the mapped woody vegetation clearing had previously been cleared one or more times since 1988
  • 91 per cent of cleared woody vegetation was replaced by pasture with the remaining 9 per cent replaced by crop, forestry, mining, infrastructure and settlements.

Using Landsat satellite technology, the study detects changes in woody vegetation in Queensland to report annualised total woody vegetation clearing rates in hectares per year.

Woody vegetation encompasses both woody remnant and woody regrowth vegetation, including native woodlands, timber plantations and exotic species.