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Publication details

Post-print of: Taffs, KH 2001, 'Diatoms as indicators of wetland salinity in the Upper South East of South Australia', The Holocene, vol. 11, no. 3, pp. 281-290.

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Wetland degradation in the Upper South East of South Australia is an urgent management concern. Scant recent environmental data is available for the region and long-term monitoring data is lacking. Usually a palaeoecological analysis is able to reveal environmental change in the medium- to long-term past. However, the region is not conducive to palaeoecological investigation due to a fluctuating upper groundwater aquifer and alkaline soils which have destroyed most microfossils. It was found that the diatom assemblage was preserved in the wetlands of the region for the period of European settlement. Analysis of the diatom assemblage enabled production of an inferred salinity curve. In combination with a small amount of historical information that was available, the salinity trend for the wetlands, for the period of European agricultural activities, was identified. It was found that, while groundwater salinity has been increasing, the wetland areas have experienced a freshening of surface water. This is due to an increase of throughflow of surface water, a result of constructed drainage systems flushing salts from the wetlands. Despite the freshening of wetlands they continue to degrade due to the changed hydrology, an impact of the drainage structures.