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Protected and repaired freshwater and marine systems

Adaptation Pathway

Cape York has vast, connected and highly valuable aquatic and marine systems that need protection from multiple climate change impacts. This pathway will include improving knowledge of water systems through engagement with community, monitoring and improving models, supporting Indigenous groups access to country, coordinating across catchments and promoting agricultural planning for the sustainable management of water resources.

The pathway aligns with the east and west Cape York water quality improvement plans.

How was it identified

Cape York is characterised by water - from the marine and coastal systems, fresh water systems and wet season deluges. The activities in this theme were identified during engagement with community for the Regional Investment Strategy, Your Climate engagement and development of the Water Quality Improvement Plan. Aquatic and marine systems also feature heavily in the Stream 2 reports.






  • Document the values of water systems with Indigenous and non-Indigenous landholders.

  • Synthesise monitoring and research results to understand the systems, including water quality, soil quality, erosion and flood plumes.


  • Conduct workshops and 'walking the landscape' project.

  • Synthesise science and systems conceptual models to inform the management of these


  • Conduct catchment-level and subregional planning for water quality, water use and biodiversity conservation.


  • Use the Water Quality Improvement Plan and targets as a guide to engage people and seek funding and resources.

  • Support a Cape York Catchments to Coral Partnership with a structured approach with five working groups for urban, roads, grazing, agriculture and nature and cultural conservation.

Example Monitoring Indicator

  • Catchment runoff and flood plume monitoring;

  • Road disturbance index;

  • Water quality indicators, such as turbidity and nutrient loads.


  • Management of aquatic and marine systems will improve system health, build knowledge, raise awareness of their cultural and conservation values, and maintain the provision of ecosystem services.


  • Catchment-level management through coordination across interest .

  • Innovations in grazing and horticulture land management.

  • Knowledge and awareness of biodiversity and catchment values.

  • Better monitoring of aquatic and marine systems.


  • Protection of high cultural values.

  • Protection of high species diversity in aquatic and marine systems, including the Great Barrier Reef.

  • Protection of high ecosystem services.

  • Improvements in sustainability of infrastructure development.

  • Improved planning of grazing and agriculture properties.

  • New knowledge on aquatic and marine systems.