Description and method logic
The Q-catchments program aims to assess aquatic ecosystem condition, and the threats to condition, in river systems across Queensland. Threats are identified and prioritised using a risk-based approach. The threats to aquatic ecosystems are linked through cause and effect conceptual models for each region assessed.
The Q-catchment program undertakes risk assessment and reporting that identifies the threats that pose the greatest risk to river ecosystems in Queensland. The results of the risk assessments are used to design monitoring and assessment of riverine threats and condition in selected regions and catchments. Pressure-Stressor-Response (PSR) conceptual models form the causative understanding of the ecosystem and are used to identify important model components. These underpin the risk assessments and the design of monitoring and assessment. This approach provides for the ongoing refinement of conceptual understandings and guides efficient management activity. Repeated assessments provide information on the success or otherwise of management and change in threats (in particular increases and establishment), which underlies the concept of adaptive monitoring and management.
The Q-catchments program (previously named the Stream and Estuary Assessment Program (SEAP)) is an approach to aquatic ecosystem assessment, which is underpinned by the Pressure-Stressor-Ecosystem Response (PSER) conceptual framework. This is a causal chain conceptual framework, which simplifies and standardises the threatening processes occurring in aquatic ecosystems. The aim of this conceptual framework is to ensure repeatability and make the presentation of concepts easier. The components of the PSER framework also provide the basis for undertaking all assessments and in particular the risk assessments.
The Q-catchments program identifies and ranks the threats to riverine ecosystems using an ecological risk assessment. The risk assessment uses current information on the likelihood of the occurrence of a threat (1-5 rating) and consequence of that threat to the ecosystem (i.e. ecosystem response) (1-5 rating). These threats are only those resulting from human related activity and are the result of changes to physical, chemical and biological stressors. Risk is determined as the product of likelihood and consequence scores and the final risk score provides a ranking of all potential threats. The risk ranking is used for the prioritisation of the threats and can be used to guide management and monitoring.
A sampling strategy for monitoring selected threats includes typical issues such as defining the sampling population; site selections; selecting indicators and appropriate methods; setting effect sizes and site numbers; and techniques in comparing measures against expected values (e.g. reference ranges for the indicator). These issues are adjusted based on the needs and resources of the program and threats being assessed. Sample site selection for condition assessment follows the General Randomised Tessellated Selection (GRTS) protocol to ensure that the sites sampled are spatially balanced (e.g. to allow for nested spatial scales within an assessment) and representative of the total population of potential sample sites.
The program applies a multiple lines of evidence approach, which allows for a better review of the conceptual understanding and provides more information for repeated risk assessment in the future. In addition to this monitoring information, targeted research activity provides better cause-effect information for future repeat risk assessments. This targeted research is guided by the initial risk assessments identifying threats lacking in appropriate understanding or information.
Criteria groupings of the method
Expert knowledge of riverine flora, fauna and ecology including potential threats and their management, spatial and non-spatial data. Field sampling and assessment skills, and data analysis.
A database platform for data storage, manipulation and values assessment, a Geographic Information System (GIS) platform for result presentation and interpretation.
Q-catchments produces a likelihood, consequence and ecological risk score for threats within a study area. These are detailed in a risk assessment report and risk scores are categorised into high, medium or low levels for presentation purposes.
Q-catchments produces an assessment of the current level of threat and ecosystem condition associated with selected higher ranked threats (i.e. priority threats). A report is produced for presenting the monitoring and assessment of the current threat and ecosystem condition in combination with the current conceptual understanding of the causative processes.
Q-catchments produces research on ecosystem understanding including the consequences or ecosystem responses of specific threats in aquatic ecosystems and the potential management controls of specific threats.
Criteria by category
Physical and chemical
Designed for federal, state or local government agencies and natural resource management groups.
Ecological risk assessment and threat prioritisation in Queensland's eastern Murray Darling Rivers: Condamine, Balonne and Maranoa: Lower Balonne: Moonie
Report on a workshop held in Cairns to prioritise the pressures and stressors impacting on the streams and rivers of the Wet Tropics province
Riverine condition assessment of the Warrego, Paroo, Bulloo and Nebine catchments of Queensland: technical report 2012
Last updated: 16 September 2020
This page should be cited as:
Department of Environment and Science, Queensland (2020) Q-catchments, WetlandInfo website, accessed 13 May 2021. Available at: https://wetlandinfo.des.qld.gov.au/wetlands/resources/tools/assessment-search-tool/q-catchments/