Skip links and keyboard navigation

EHMP (Ecosystem Health Monitoring Program)


Moreton Bay Waterways and Catchment Partnership

Method type



Moreton Bay


Aggregation, Habitat, Regional, Sub-regional

Purpose types

Function, Value

Water types

Estuarine, Freshwater, Marine


sustainability, wetland


The EHMP measures waterway health using a broad range of biological, physical and chemical indicators of ecosystem health. These indicators provide essential information about the condition of South East Queensland's waterways. Currently, 127 freshwater sites are monitored twice a year (in spring and autumn), and 248 estuarine and marine sites are monitored on a monthly basis. The results provide an assessment of the responses of aquatic ecosystems to human activities, such as catchment alterations and point source discharges (e.g. wastewater treatment plants), and also take into account natural processes such as rainfall.

Freshwater: Values for each of the 18 indices used in the Freshwater EHMP are calculated twice yearly (spring and autumn) for each site. Index values are compared against Ecosystem Health Guideline values to derive standardised scores accounting for major (natural) spatial differences in stream types and differences in the scale of measurement across indices. Resulting scores range from zero to one, with zero indicative of 'unhealthy' or heavily disturbed conditions, and a score of one indicative of 'healthy' or minimally disturbed conditions. Standardised scores are averaged across combinations of indices, sites and seasons.  Visual summaries of results are produced to simplify the comparison of results for indices and indicators within individual reporting areas, including seasonal changes, and spatial variation within and amongst reporting areas. These summaries primarily involve: (1) box and whisker plots; (2) horizontal bar charts; (3) Ecosystem Health (EcoH) plots.

Estuarine/marine: From a total of 248 estuarine and marine sites, maps are produced for each indicator that show the median values for each site from the reporting year. Compliance scores are then calculated for each indicator as the proportion of the reporting zone that complies with the Water Quality Objectives, 0 representing non-compliance and 1 representing total compliance. An Ecosystem Health Index (EHI) for the reporting zone is calculated by averaging the compliance scores for each indicator.The Biological Health Rating (BHR) assesses those indicators measured by the EHMP without established objectives. The BHR ranges between 0 and 1 for each zone, with 1 representing an unmodified and healthy ecosystem and 0 representing a highly modified and unhealthy ecosystem.A single EHI value and a single BHR value are calculated for each waterway by averaging the indicator ratings. These two values are combined together with expert opinion to provide a single value used to assign a Report Card Grade.

Report Card ratings of 'A' to 'F' are produced for 18 catchments, 18 estuaries and Moreton Bay. Sub-regional reviews are also produced. Measures taken to improve water quality are reported. The Report Card communicates to government agencies, industry and community the effectiveness of these measures.

Purpose summary

  • To deliver a regional assessment of the ambient ecosystems for each of South East Queensland's catchments, estuaries and Moreton Bay.


  • Function
    • Ecosystem condition
    • Health
  • Value
    • Water quality values


  • An annual Ecosystem Health Report Card
  • An annual Technical Report.


  • Advise land managers and councils on areas of declining health.
  • Report on the effects of different land uses.   
  • Evaluate the effectiveness of management actions aimed at improving and protecting aquatic ecosystems.
  • To identify emerging issues that may need intervention.
  • To provide an audit mechanism for the management actions undertaken to protect South East Queensland's catchments and Moreton Bay.


  • Rigorous science is used.
  • High community interest in outputs.
  • Has been running since 1999.
  • A report card for non-technical users as well as a technical report is produced


  • Methods have changed over time.
  • All major catchments have only been monitored since 2003.

Criteria basis

Freshwater: key elements of healthy freshwater ecosystems in SEQ.
Estuarine/marine: traditional water quality parameters, complemented by biological indicators.

Resources required

A large team of experts and associated resources is involved in the SEQ program.

Time required

Long term with annual surveys

Surveys are conducted over 12 months and reported on annually.

Data required

Freshwater: pH, conductivity, dissolved oxygen ranges, water temperature, nitrogen and carbon isotope signatures of aquatic plants, algal bioassay, gross primary production, carbon dioxide production, aquatic invertebrate indices and fish indices.

Estuarine/marine: turbidity, salinity, water temperature, dissolved oxygen, pH, water clarity, nutrients, phytoplankton biomass, sewage nitrogen, Lyngbya presence, coral community structure and seagrass depth range.

Recommended users

Results are of interest or useful to local government, state government agencies, industry and the community.


  • Ecological importance:
    • Biological (estuarine and marine)
      • Seagrass
      • Coral
      • Sewage nitrogen
    • Stream health(freshwater)
      • Fish
      • Aquatic invertebrates
      • Physical-chemical
      • Ecosystem processes
      • Nutrient cycling
    • Water quality (freshwater, estuarine and marine)
      • Physical-chemical

Case studies


EHMP. (2006) Ecosystem Health Monitoring Program 2004-2005 Annual Technical Report. Moreton Bay Waterways and Catchments Partnership, Brisbane.


Last updated: 22 March 2013

This page should be cited as:

EHMP (Ecosystem Health Monitoring Program), WetlandInfo 2006, Department of Environment and Science, Queensland, viewed 9 October 2018, <>.

Queensland Government
WetlandInfo   —   Department of Environment and Science