Acid sulfate soil: An insidious problem

Imagine a world where most large estuaries in NSW released acid water on a daily basis. When it rained this acid flooded into rivers, often resulting in large fish kills and black water… Stop imagining - this is actually happening!

Acid sulfate soil - tidal buffering, illustration by Anna BlackaAcid sulfate soils are an insidious problem that is often overlooked. In our recent paper, published in ‘Ecological Engineering’, we discuss a state-of-the-science approach to remediate these soils by encouraging tidal buffering. This approach involves the removal of drainage infrastructure and the repurposing of agricultural land back to tidal wetlands.

To date, remediation efforts have largely focused on individual locations at the farm plot scale. Remediation projects have commonly focused on onsite acidity levels, groundwater transport and impacts to agricultural infrastructure. This site-based approach provides detailed information on acid hotspots, but provides limited understanding of the overall issues affecting the broader coastal floodplain.

WRL researchers Jamie Ruprecht, Will Glamore and Duncan Rayner have developed a catchment-wide estuarine dynamics approach and field-tested it to overcome current limitations. The catchment-wide approach combines onsite investigations with large-scale studies of the fate/transport of acidic plumes; the coastal floodplain response dynamics to rainfall or flooding events; and the objective prioritisation of impacted landscapes for remediation.

Our paper ‘Estuarine dynamics and Acid Sulfate Soil discharge: Quantifying a Conceptual Model', is now available online and free to download until January 11, 2018. See link below:

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