Fitzroy Partnership for River Health News!

November edition...

Tilapia terminated to improve awareness of river health

The largest Tilapia caught on the day by Tracy Chelepy.

Over 100 people attended the tilapia terminator and wetland care day at Yeppen Lagoon on Sunday 21 October. This event was hosted by Fitzroy Partnership for River Health to highlight the importance of looking after our waterways and take action against tilapia.

More than 30 native fish were caught and released including barred grunter and catfish and three tilapia were permanently taken out of the waterway.

Seven year old, Benjamin Hartman, took home the rod and reel combo prize for catching the first tilapia of the day and was very excited to have made a difference.

Attendees learnt more about the work our event partners including Rockhampton Regional Council's environment and sustainability and pest teams, Fitzroy Basin Association, Infofish Australia and CQUniversity researchers are doing relating to fish, water quality and other environmental projects.

This event was part of ReefBlitz 2018 and was run in partnership with Rockhampton Regional Council, CQUniversity, Fitzroy Basin Association and Keppel Bay Sportsfishing Club. 

Although we only caught a small number of tilapia, the attendees are now more aware that if tilapia are caught they cannot release them, they need to be humanely destroyed and buried away from the water or disposed of in a bin. This is a great outcome for our waterways in the fight against this pest.

If you would like to see more from the event find Fitzroy Partnership for River Health on Facebook.


Nationwide Waterbug Blitz

The National Waterbug Blitz is Australia's first nationwide citizen science waterway monitoring event. In its inaugural year, citizens and organisations from all across Australia were encouraged to get involved by hosting an event to put their local waterways under the magnifying glass in search of waterbugs.

Dr Leigh Stitz from CQUniversity and Fitzroy Partnership for River Health staff teamed up to lead the Waterbug Blitz as part of the recent Tilapia Terminator and Wetland Care Day. Dr Stitz is a water scientist with a PhD in macroinvertebrates (commonly known as waterbugs) which are one of the ecological health indicators of freshwater waterways.

What are waterbugs and why are they important to river health?
Waterbugs are small invertebrates or animals without back bones that live in freshwater. They are also known as macro-invertebrates and include critters like dragonfly nymphs, mayfly nymphs, water beetles, water worms, water boatman and tiny glass shrimp. Every species has a sensitivity or tolerance to pollution,so their presence and quantity can be used to assess the health of the waterway. 

Science in action for the Waterbug Blitz
Inquisitive minds of all ages enjoyed using the Waterbug Blitz dichotomous identification key and the Waterbug App on iPads to identify waterbugs collected from Yeppen lagoon. Participants also got to experience zoological and aquatic science under the magnifying glass and microscope to assess the health of the lagoon. 

What did we find at Yeppen lagoon?
We found Freshwater mussels, flat snails, glass shrimp, whirligig beetles, blood worms, little brindle boatman, little diving beetles, short-tailed damselfly larvae, leaf-tailed damselfly larvae, aquatic caterpillar, GT shrimp, chironomids (fly-larvae) and flat shack caddis fly larvae. You can check out fantastic photographs of these waterbugs in the Waterbug Blitz ALT key available for free download.

The most interesting find of the day was an aquatic caterpillar!

Macro-invertebrates as indicators of waterway health in the report card
Fitzroy Partnership includes macro-invertebrate data in the ecology indicator of the annual Ecosystem Health report card for the Fitzroy Basin. Currently, three different measurements (or parameters) of macro-invertebrates are used in the ecology indicator; PET richness, SIGNAL score and Taxa richness. 

  • Taxa richness is the number of macro-invertebrate species or taxa.
  • PET richness is the number of species from the Plecoptera (stonefly), Ephemeroptera (mayfly) and Trichoptera (caddisfly) orders of macro-invertebrates.
  • SIGNAL score is a score calculated by averaging the Stream Invertebrate Grade Number - Average Level given to each macro-invertebrate family (already known), based on their tolerance or sensitivity to polluted or healthy waters. The higher the score, the more sensitive species present and better water quality. The lower the score, the more tolerant species present and poorer water quality.

Waterbug Blitz science results
14 species in 12 macro-invertebrate families were found on the day and used to calculate a SIGNAL index result of 3.92.

Dr Stitz said SIGNAL index  gives an indication of water quality in the stream from which the sample was collected, based on the sensitivity of taxa to water quality change. The score of 3.92 indicates that the Yeppen Lagoon has good water quality and falls within the Fitzroy River Sub-Basin water quality objectives to protect environmental values.

"The score of 3.92 was just above the guidelines of between 3.33 – 3.85 for a composite sample. A higher number indicates that there was a high number of waterbugs which are sensitive to changes in water quality conditions and only persist where the conditions are good. This is great news as it means that the ecosystem is healthy and able to support a range of organisms," she said.


Exploring waterway health indicators: Nitrogen

The compare tool used to view the Total Nitrogen results across all 11 freshwater catchments in the Fitzroy Basin in the Ecosystem Health report card.
Nitrogen is essential for all life and is one of the building blocks things like proteins, amino acids and DNA. As a gas, it is the most abundant element in the atmosphere and air that we breath. While it is most prevalent in the atmosphere as N2 this is a form that is not readily available for biological processes in water and land ecosystems.

While nitrogen is a nutrient essential for life, in excess it can cause problems with over-growth of aquatic plants and algae in the water. Too much nitrogen and phosphorous can cause eutrophication and result in blue-green algae blooms, overgrowth of aquatic introduced weeds and depletion of oxygen in the water. We will look at phosphorous in the next newsletter edition.

Sources of nitrogen in catchments include run-off from grazing and cropping lands (fertilisers, animal manure), sewage or waste water treatment plants, fertilised lawns, industrial discharges and failing septic tanks.

What forms of nitrogen are found in freshwater?
Inorganic forms of nitrite (NO2), nitrate (NO3), ammonia (NH3), ammonium (NH4) and organic forms such as urea (CH4N2O). Organic forms are those which have a carbon (C) atom in the nitrogen compound such as proteins, amino acids and urea.

What do we report on for the Fitzroy Partnership ecosystem report card?
Total nitrogen and Oxidised nitrogen (NOx).
  • Total nitrogen is the sum of all nitrogen available in the water in all its forms and compounds, including inorganic forms and organic forms.
  • Oxidised nitrogen is a measure of the compounds of nitrogen and oxygen (nitrous oxides) in the water and includes nitrite as NO2 and nitrate as NO3.
Why oxidised nitrogen?
Oxidised nitrogen is of importance in aquatic ecosystem health as both nitrite and nitrate are soluble forms that are readily available for plants and algae, but in excess can result in overgrowth of water plants and algae, often leading to eutrophication.

Photo: A blue-green algae outbreak in a dam. Photo source: FBA

Nitrate is the most commonly available nitrogen compound in freshwater however oxidised nitrogen was chosen (as a substitute for nitrate as N) for the Fitzroy Partnership ecosystem health report card because existing water quality guidelines are available for the oxidised nitrogen only and not nitrate as N. Nitrite is an intermediate compound in the oxidisation of ammonia to nitrate.

Why total nitrogen?
Total nitrogen is a measure of all the available nitrogen forms in water, including nitrite (NO2), nitrate (NO3), ammonia (NH3), ammonium (NH4) and organic forms such as urea (CH4N2O) and nitrogen bound within the sediment.

It allows us to compare the total nitrogen sample result with the oxidised nitrogen result which may provide clues to the source of nitrogen. For example, much higher levels of total nitrogen than oxidised nitrogen may indicate high levels of nitrogen bound in sediments.

Want more info? 
Have a read of this information sheet from the National Pollution Inventory on Total Nitrogen.

We will look at phosphorous in the next newsletter edition.

The compare tool used to view the Oxidised Nitrogen (NOx) results across all 11 freshwater catchments in the Fitzroy Basin in the Ecosystem Health report card.

EnviroScore on world water stage at International River Symposium


Fitzroy Partnership for River Health showcased EnviroScore to an international audience at the International River Symposium in Sydney last month. The International Riversymposium provides a unique global forum for river managers, policy developers, scientists, consultants, students, NGOs, indigenous and community organisations and business and industry representatives to share their knowledge, learn from others and collaborate to improve the sustainable management of river basins all over the world.

Fitzroy Partnership Executive Officer, Nathan Johnston, presented a session on "Streamlining and automating environmental Reporting" as part of the Technology Innovation in Restoration and Monitoring sessions.

We have progressively automated our annual environmental report card assessment and publishing process. This has reduced production costs, reduced human error and freed up funding that has then been redirected into automation of secondary online waterway reporting products and other priorities. Fitzroy Partnership for River Health have taken this innovation journey one step further and now help other environmental report card initiatives to overcome similar problems through the Enviroscore Online offering.

The history of innovation was explored that led to Enviroscore Online being created.

To learn more visit our En
viroscore website.


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If you have a good news story, interest piece or lead we would love to hear from you - please contact us by phone or email below. 
If you would like more information about joining the partnership please contact:

Nathan Johnston - Executive Officer
P: 07 4999 2821 | M: 0400 221 055 | E:
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Kash Walker - Web Developer
P: 07 4999 2819 | E:

Fitzroy Partnership for River Health
Level 1, 80 East Street
PO Box 139 Rockhampton, QLD 4700
FBA is the current host organisation of the Fitzroy Partnership for River Health.

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