An environmental history of Moreton Bay hinterlands

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Kemp, Justine
Olley, Jon
Capon, Samantha
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Tibbetts, Ian R

Rothlisberg, Peter C

Neil, David T

Homburg, Tamara A

Brewer, David T

Arthington, Angela H

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Recent studies of local landscape and vegetation change have improved our understanding of the part Europeans have played in the evolution of subtropical Australia. Here, we focus on sedimentary and documentary evidence from the large, rural catchments draining to Moreton Bay. In the 1840s, the region underwent a transition from Aboriginal pastoralism to European grazing and agriculture. The first decades of European management brought changes to the floristic composition of the region’s grasslands with only minor changes in the extent of forest and woodland. Changes in soil density in the catchment headwaters and valley floors associated with cattle and sheep grazing are linked to channel erosion in the middle and upper reaches of the river systems, accompanied by gullying in some headwater catchments. The erosion of waterways upstream is associated with a degraded riparian forest and the transport of muddy sediments into Moreton Bay. The timing of peaks in sedimentation, in the 1890s, 1950s and 2010s, was triggered by periods of enhanced rainfall and flooding. All of these factors are implicated in a tenfold increase in sediment loads into Moreton Bay since European settlement. Despite these impacts, changes to landscapes and soils in the region have been modest. In comparison with temperate south-eastern Australia, gully erosion has been limited in extent, the soils remain largely intact, and major changes in channel type have occurred on only a small proportion of rivers. This greater resilience in the Australian subtropics to the new European land uses is attributed to the naturally more variable climate and vigorous vegetation response to disturbance. However, sustainable management of these landscapes has not yet been achieved. The drainage network is presently unstable, leaving open the possibility of catastrophic system adjustment in the near future. This could produce dramatic increases in hill-slope and gully erosion and a metamorphosis of channel pattern in the trunk streams, similar to landscape responses documented in south-eastern Australia between 1850 and 1950.

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Moreton Bay Quandamooka & Catchment: Past, Present and Future

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© 2019 The Moreton Bay Foundation. This book is copyright. Apart from any fair dealing for purposes of private study, research, criticism or review, as permitted under the Copyright Act 1968, no part may be reproduced by any process without written permission.

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Kemp, J; Olley, J; Capon, S, An environmental history of Moreton Bay hinterlands, Moreton Bay Quandamooka & Catchment: Past, Present and Future, 2019, pp. 121-136