Planning for catchment resilience and threatened species recovery from extreme events in Queensland’s Moonaboola (Mary River)

Project start date: 01/02/2023
Project end date: 28/02/2026
NESP funding: $550,000 (GST-exclusive)

In many parts of eastern Australia, recent extreme weather events have caused severe droughts, heat waves, wildfires and floods. Coupled with habitat degradation and invasive species, these environmental disturbances pose increasing risks to the resilience and long-term survival of highly valued and threatened freshwater species and the integrity of critical wetland habitats. This presents major science challenges for effective threat management, habitat restoration and species recovery.

Mary River in QueenslandQueensland’s Moonaboola (Mary River) is a hotspot for threatened freshwater species. Photo: Mark Kennard.

This project aims to identify practical solutions for catchment-scale restoration and threatened-species recovery, with a focus on the Mary River (Moonaboola) catchment in south-east Queensland – a hotspot of threatened species that rely on freshwater and riparian habitats. These species include fish (Australian lungfish, Mary River cod, Oxleyan pygmy perch), turtles (Mary River turtle, white-throated snapping turtle), frogs (giant barred frog, wallum sedge frog), birds (Coxen’s fig parrot) and mammals (water mouse).

Crucially, the Mary River catchment is also home to passionate people involved in strong local organisations who want to save threatened species and achieve a resilient, sustainable and productive catchment.We’re taking an integrated approach to create new opportunities for the management of threatened aquatic species in the Mary River catchment, which will be transferable to other Australian ecosystems.

Key research areas

To address these challenges and improve knowledge, capacity and tools for management and recovery of threatened freshwater species and their critical habitats, we will work with government, catchment natural resource management groups, Traditional Owners and landholders by:

  • filling critical knowledge gaps on threatened species distributions and habitat requirements, ecological and cultural values, and threats
  • prioritising on-ground restoration actions to benefit multiple threatened species
  • undertaking targeted implementation trials of habitat-restoration measures for key species
  • designing a monitoring program to evaluate restoration success.
  • Tom Espinoza and Mark Kennard with a threatened Australian lungfish. Photo: Cait Mill.
  • Luke Carpenter-Bundhoo from Griffith University and Tom Espinoza from the Burnett Mary Regional Group with a threatened Mary River turtle. Photo: Matthew Taylor.
  • The threatened white-throated snapping turtle. Photo: Cait Mill.
  • Gardners Falls, Maleny, in the upper Mary River. Photo: adam88xx/Adobe Stock.
  • This project is focusing on catchment resilience in Queensland's Moonaboola (Mary River). Image: Resilient Landscapes Hub.