Sulfidic materials in dryland river wetlands

S. Lamontagne, W. S. Hicks, R. W. Fitzpatrick, S. Rogers

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Due to a combination of river regulation, dryland salinity and irrigation return, lower River Murray floodplains (Australia) and associated wetlands are undergoing salinisation. It was hypothesised that salinisation would provide suitable conditions for the accumulation of sulfidic materials (soils and sediments enriched in sulfides, such as pyrite) in these wetlands. A survey of nine floodplain wetlands representing a salinity gradient from fresh to hypersaline determined that surface sediment sulfide concentrations varied from <0.05% to ∼1%. Saline and permanently flooded wetlands tended to have greater sulfide concentrations than freshwater ones or those with more regular wetting-drying regimes. The acidification risk associated with the sulfidic materials was evaluated using field peroxide oxidations tests and laboratory measurements of net acid generation potential. Although sulfide concentration was elevated in many wetlands, the acidification risk was low because of elevated carbonate concentration (up to 30% as CaCO3) in the sediments. One exception was Bottle Bend Lagoon (New South Wales), which had acidified during a draw-down event in 2002 and was found to have both actual and potential acid sulfate soils at the time of the survey (2003). Potential acid sulfate soils also occurred locally in the hypersaline Loveday Disposal Basin. The other environmental risks associated with sulfidic materials could not be reliably evaluated because no guideline exists to assess them. These include the deoxygenation risk following sediment resuspension and the generation of foul odours during drying events. The remediation of wetland salinity in the Murray-Darling Basin will require that the risks associated with disturbing sulfidic materials during management actions be evaluated.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)775-788
Number of pages14
JournalMarine and Freshwater Research
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 12 Dec 2006
Externally publishedYes


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