Media Release Fight For Our Reef

Still too much tree clearing threatens Great Barrier Reef

December 16, 2022
  • Queensland Government needs to do more to control tree clearing in Reef catchments despite reduced clearing rates
  • Tree clearing is major threat to Reef, increasing sediment & pollutants into Reef waters
  • Tree clearing exacerbates climate change, the biggest threat to the Reef

The Queensland Government must stop tree clearing in Reef catchments if it is to protect the Great Barrier Reef, the Australian Marine Conservation Society said after the government today released the land clearing data for the state in 2019-20.

The Statewide Landcover and Trees Study (SLATS) data shows that hundreds of thousands of hectares of land has been cleared in the state and in the Reef catchments despite the Queensland Government introducing legislation in 2018 to try to rein in clearing.

The data shows that 189,904 hectares of land was affected by clearing in Reef catchments in 2019-20, 16% less than the 217,419ha impacted in 2018-19, but still around the same rates as before the clearing legislation was enacted in 2018 – about 148,000ha fully cleared in 2017-18 and 166,000ha fully cleared in 2016-17.

“It’s positive that there has been a reduction in clearing, but the Queensland Government still needs to do more to control tree clearing, with more than 100,000ha cleared in Reef catchments every year,” said AMCS Great Barrier Reef Water Quality Manager Jaimi Webster. “The recent Reactive Monitoring Mission report on the Reef by the World Heritage scientific advisers UNESCO made clear recommendations to address clearing in Reef catchments.

“The Queensland Government must stop approving tree clearing in Reef catchments and close the loopholes that allow massive amounts of clearing without any approval.

“Tree clearing worsens water pollution, one of the biggest threats to the Great Barrier Reef, with sediment smothering the Reef and seagrasses that marine life such as endangered dugongs depend upon, and synthetic fertilisers turbo-charging algal blooms and starving the water of oxygen.

“Tree clearing also exacerbates climate change, the biggest threat to our Reef, adding to carbon pollution when trees are burned or left to rot, and removing trees that could suck carbon out of the atmosphere.”