Funded By:
The Australian Government’s Reef Trust

Central Queensland University’s Coastal Marine Ecosystems Research Centre (CMERC)
Gidarjil Development Corporation

The Discovery Coast, part of the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage area, is not only home to a number of threatened habitats and species but is also an area of cultural, social and economic value to the Burnett Mary region.

BMRG is now halfway through the three-year Integrated Habitat Restoration for the Discovery Coast Project. Begun in September 2020, this project aims to restore habitats such as marine turtle nesting sites and protect dugongs and a variety of fish and migratory shorebird species that call the Discovery Coast area home.

The Discovery Coast Project combines the latest ecological science with the knowledge and experience of Traditional Owners via the Burnett Water Quality Consortium of Central Queensland University’s Coastal Marine Ecosystems Research Centre (CMERC) and Gidarjil Development Corporation.

Discovery Coast beaches support a range of important habitats for migratory shorebird species, iconic marine species such as dugongs, and are sites of marine turtle nesting. The Discovery Coast houses a strong network of gazetted fish habitat areas, thus supporting commercial and recreational fishing. Local coastal catchments drain directly into the Great Barrier Marine Park World Heritage Area and the Port Curtis Coral Coast Traditional Use Marine Resource Agreement area. By improving marine biodiversity, this project aims to reduce the range of threats to the World Heritage Great Barrier Reef. More specifically, this project addresses threatening processes to key environmental values including improved hydrology, threat abatement activities, shoreline rehabilitation, mitigation against feminisation of marine turtle, and protection for marine turtle nests against fox predation.

The Integrated Habitat Restoration for the Discovery Coast Project will help threatened species to recover, improve conditions for threatened ecological communities, and reduce threats to the outstanding universal values of World Heritage declared areas.

Project activities include protection for marine sea turtles in coastal regions, removal of causeways to improve species bio-passage and shoreline rehabilitation of Discovery Coast tidal areas. Effective interventions consist of:
* Soil erosion management
* Weed control and restorative plantings
* Water quality improvement and monitoring initiatives
* Feral fox and pig controls in turtle nesting areas
* Barrier removal to reduce shoreline erosion.

Project Scope:
Geographically, this project covers the Burnett Mary Region, Discovery Coast shorelines, the southern end of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park World Heritage Area and the Port Curtis Coral Coast Traditional Use Marine Resource Agreement area.

Quantitative methods and measures have been deployed for:
* Causeway removal for improved bio-passage with water, sediment, fish habitat and connectivity quality measured
* Sediment monitoring, carbon capture and storage capacity
* Monitoring change in coastal marine plant cover
* Marine habitat extent mapping with drones
* Baseline, progress and rehabilitation monitoring of near shore fish species
* Shoreline rehabilitation on the Kolan River for improved water quality

Work Done to Date:
BMRG has been busy:
* Establishing baseline monitoring regimes across 127 hectares with ongoing data collection for improved fauna, birds, fish and turtle habitat;
* Controlling pest animals across 750 hectares, with 250 hectares of marine turtle nesting areas targeted for fox control;
* Monitoring and evaluating improvements in fish habitat focused on changes in wetland habitats, water and sediment quality;
* Stabilising banks along 820 metres located approximately 10 kilometres upstream of the Kolan River mouth (including marine plant surveys were completed in 2021);
* Completing vegetation surveys (drones and field surveys);
* Completing weed control across 30 hectares of invasive species;
* Completing planned revegetation activities and coastal marine plant cover (drone imagery was used to calculate vegetation cover); and
* Removing three causeways in the Eurimbula National Park to improve bio-passage access and natural water flow.
Eight community education events, public meetings and training sessions have also been held.

Future Work:
The balance of projects into the future include: maintaining monitoring regimes; continuing fauna surveys at established sites; weed removal, pest control, revegetation and vegetation surveys; and continued water sampling. Feral pig removal is planned for the Eurimbula National Park. Pest animal surveys and drone imagery will reoccur to detect changes and analyse the need for further interventions. Planned community engagement includes a community and stakeholder event at the Kolan River riverbank rehabilitation site in May 2022.