Instream Structure Prioritisation (Protected areas)
Description and method logic
The objective of this method is to assist those undertaking inventories of instream structures that impact on fish habitats, wetland condition and movement of fish and other aquatic species in declared Fish Habitat Areas and Ramsar sites. This method scores and prioritises structures and provides a Response Action Plan (RAP) that includes a list of priority structures and identifies management actions for every type of structure.
This method implements a framework and guidelines developed by Fisheries Queensland (Targeted collection of inventory data for wetlands fish barriers in the Great Barrier Reef catchment ), and the former Department of National Parks, Sport and Racing (NPRSR) (Guidelines for conducting an inventory of instream structures in coastal Queensland) (The Guidelines).
This method employs the framework and guidelines above to develop inventories of instream structures including fish passage, and identify priority structures impacting on wetland condition and fish habitats in declared Fish Habitat Areas and Ramsar wetlands.
The baseline information, together with guidance on prioritising which instream structures to remediate, assists with decision making when assessing future development impacts on Ramsar sites and adjacent areas, including coastal declared fish habitat areas.
Barriers to fish passage such as dams, weirs, causeways, culverts, earthen bunds and floodgates can impact the health of aquatic systems by altering natural flow regimes, and causing impassable barriers to aquatic fauna, especially fish. Many high value fish species require unimpeded access between habitats (i.e. between inland freshwater habitats and estuarine/marine habitats).
Instream structures such as jetties, pontoons, boat ramps and revetments can impact fish habitats by causing physical disturbances that result in direct habitat loss or fragmentation.
Urban development and the modification of natural wetland systems present potential threats to the ecological character of Ramsar wetlands from linear infrastructure without appropriate culverts, which can interrupt natural surface water and groundwater flow paths.
By identifying and assessing the impacts of instream structures on Ramsar wetlands and recording wetlands inventory information, structure inventory project data supplements the Ecological Character Description and forms a baseline against which to measure future impacts.
The first stage in the process is the inventory protocol for instream structure identification via a desktop assessment using GIS data and existing approvals information (fisheries development approvals, boat ramps, prescribed tidal works).
Structure types in this method included barriers (physical and large barriers such as bridges, culverts and causeways) and non-barriers such as pile supported structures (jetties, pontoons), rubbish/wreckage, stabilisation structures (revetments and groynes) and fill and slab structures (boat ramps, houses, wharves).
Aerial surveys, boat-based surveys and ground surveys are conducted of each project area to confirm identification of barriers and non-barriers. Field assessments are conducted where possible at low tide. Consultation with working groups also is conducted.
The second stage of the method is a Response Protocol to identify management priorities by scoring the instream structures.
The criteria scores are assigned a position in a prioritisation matrix based on habitat value and fish-friendly scores. The four matrix quarters are:
Criteria groupings of the method
Part 1: Remote risk assessment:
Structure identification using GIS:
Structure identification using field collection:
Part 2 Risk assessment/scoring of structures:
Fish friendly criteria for barriers:
Fish friendly criteria for non-barriers:
Expert knowledge of aquatic fauna ecology including habitat requirements and fisheries value. Field assessment skills and GIS data analysis skills. Knowledge of fisheries in the study area and current development activities.
Inventory Protocol and Field Assessment/Structure Identification:
All potential barriers and non-barriers in the study area are identified and an inventory is produced. A list of relevant fisheries development approvals in and adjacent to study area. Aerial, boat and ground surveys together with field assessments inputs further refine list of potential barriers and non-barriers.
Response Protocol (prioritising of structures):
Structures from the list from Inventory Protocol and Field Assessment/Structure Identification scored and placed into the prioritisation matrix. A list of highest priority structures in accordance with a structure's position in the matrix (Quarter 1 - highest priority).
Response Action Plan:
A Response Action Plan (RAP) which identifies the priority structures and contains recommended management actions for the study area.
Criteria by category
Physical and chemical
Management and planning
Designed for federal, state or local government agencies, catchment management groups and NRM groups.
Enhanced management of Ramsar site wetlands within the Great Sandy Strait catchments site wetlands within the Great Enhanced management of Ramsar site wetlands within the Great Sandy Strait catchments
Department of National Parks, Sport and Racing. 2016. Enhanced management of Ramsar site wetlands within the Great Sandy Strait catchments. Queensland Government, Brisbane.
Department of Employment, Economic Development and Innovation 2011, Inventory of Instream
Structures Impacting on Ramsar Wetlands, 66 pp, Queensland Wetlands Program, Brisbane Queensland.
Targeted collection of inventory data for wetlands fish barriers of the Great Barrier Reef catchment fish barriers of the Great Barrier Reef catchment
Lawrence, M, Sully, D, Beumer, J & Couchman, D (2009) Targeted collection of inventory data for wetlands fish barriers of the Great Barrier Reef Catchment. Department of Primary Industries and Fisheries.
Last updated: 9 February 2021
This page should be cited as:
Department of Environment and Science, Queensland (2021) Instream Structure Prioritisation (Protected areas), WetlandInfo website, accessed 5 October 2022. Available at: https://wetlandinfo.des.qld.gov.au/wetlands/resources/tools/assessment-search-tool/instream-structure-prioritisation-protected-areas/