Groundwater or floodwater? assessing the pathways of metal exports from a coastal acid sulfate soil catchment

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Santos, IR, de Weys, J & Eyre, BD 2011, 'Groundwater or floodwater? assessing the pathways of metal exports from a coastal acid sulfate soil catchment', Environmental Science and Technology, vol. 45, no. 22, pp. 9641-9648.

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Daily observations of dissolved aluminum, iron, and manganese in an estuary downstream of a coastal acid sulfate soil (CASS) catchment provided insights into how floods and submarine groundwater discharge drive wetland metal exports. Extremely high Al, Fe, and Mn concentrations (up to 40, 374, and 8 mg L–1, respectively) were found in shallow acidic groundwaters from the Tuckean Swamp, Australia. Significant correlations between radon (a natural groundwater tracer) and metals in surface waters revealed that metal loads were driven primarily by groundwater discharge. Dissolved Fe, Mn, and Al loads during a 16-day flood triggered by a 213 mm rain event were respectively 80, 35, and 14% of the total surface water exports during the four months of observations. Counter clockwise hysteresis was observed for Fe and Mn in surface waters during the flood due to delayed groundwater inputs. Groundwater-derived Fe fluxes into artificial drains were 1 order of magnitude higher than total surface water exports, which is consistent with the known accumulation of monosulfidic black ooze within the wetland drains. Upscaling the Tuckean catchment export estimates yielded dissolved Fe fluxes from global acid sulfate soil catchments on the same order of magnitude of global river inputs into estuaries.