Zuni bowls for erosion

April 21, 2020

Zuni bowls have begun their work to stop erosion on Tablelands farms.

Bowls that were constructed 10 months ago have settled into the landscape and grazier Owen Rankine says grass is growing on land below that was previously bare.

“We haven’t had a big wet season but the amount of flow through the bowls has been enough to see how they work and to get them established, with silt between the rocks and grass on the land below them,’’ he said.

“Next year you’ll barely see they are there and the water should flow through nicely.”

Zuni bowls are a small-scale cost-effective way for landholders to stop erosion advancing. They are a lining of rocks built in gully heads where there are abrupt vertical drops, and they are designed to stop water from disturbing the soil any further. The bowls work with the natural landscape by mimicking the kind of forms found in creeks.

Five bowls were built in two gullies on the Rankine’s property as a demonstration site for the Wet Tropics. Terrain NRM brought Tablelands business RegenAG's North American watershed specialist Craig Sponholtz to the region for the project. He designed the bowls, trained local earthmovers and led workshops with farmers on cost-effective ways to solve gully erosion problems.

The work is part of Terrain NRM’s Upper Johnstone Integrated Project, funded through the Queensland Government’s Natural Resources Investment Program and focused on erosion hotspots in the Tablelands-Innisfail region.

Terrain NRM’s Jen Mackenzie said the Johnstone River catchment was a priority for water quality improvement, with the Far North’s highest sediment reduction target as part of the Australian and Queensland Government’s Reef 2050 Water Quality Improvement Plan.

“This project is all about reducing sediment losses to the Great Barrier Reef lagoon while helping graziers to help themselves by addressing erosion problems and improving their pastures and livelihoods,’’ she said.

Mr Rankine said small-scale erosion had long been an issue on his family’s beef cattle property near Lake Eacham.

“Every wet season it had been getting a bit worse, and more topsoil was washed away,’’ he said. “If we can repair our gullies, and other farmers can do the same thing, it’s another step to improving our pastures and stopping run-off to the Reef.”

For more information about the Upper Johnstone Integrated Project, visit our project page.