Changes in water quality following tidal inundation of coastal lowland acid sulfate soil landscapes

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Johnston, SG, Bush, RT, Sullivan, LA, Burton, ED, Smith, CD, Martens, MA, McElnea, AE, Ahern, CR, Powell, B, Stephens, LP, Wilbraham, ST & van Heel S 2009, 'Changes in water quality following tidal inundation of coastal lowland acid sulfate soil landscapes', Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science, vol. 81, no. 2, pp. 257-266.

Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science home page available at www.elsevier.com/locate/ecss

Publisher's version of article available at http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ecss.2008.11.002

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This study examines the remediation of surface water quality in a severely degraded coastal acid sulfate soil landscape. The remediation strategy consisted of partial restoration of marine tidal exchange within estuarine creeks and incremental tidal inundation of acidified soils, plus strategic liming of drainage waters. Time-series water quality and climatic data collected over 5 years were analysed to assess changes in water quality due to this remediation strategy. A time-weighted rainfall function (TWR) was generated from daily rainfall data to integrate the effects of antecedent rainfall on shallow groundwater levels in a way that was relevant to acid export dynamics. Significant increases in mean pH were evident over time at multiple monitoring sites. Regression analysis at multiple sites revealed a temporal progression of change in significant relationships between mean daily electrical conductivity (EC) vs. mean daily pH, and TWR vs. mean daily pH. These data demonstrate a substantial decrease over time in the magnitude of creek acidification per given quantity of antecedent rainfall. Data also show considerable increase in soil pH (2–3 units) in formerly acidified areas subject to tidal inundation. This coincides with a decrease in soil pe, indicating stronger reducing conditions. These observations suggest a fundamental shift has occurred in sediment geochemistry in favour of proton-consuming reductive processes. Combined, these data highlight the potential effectiveness of marine tidal inundation as a landscape-scale acid sulfate soil remediation strategy.