Distribution of inland wetlands with sulfidic sediments in the Murray–Darling Basin, Australia Academic Article uri icon

abstract

  • This project examined the extent of sulfidic sediments in freshwater wetlands of the Murray-Darling Basin, Australia. We sampled 81 wetlands throughout the basin with methods previously developed for the analysis of coastal acid sulfate soils. Sulfidic sediments are generally regarded as a coastal phenomenon. We tested the hypothesis that elevated concentrations of mineral sulfides may also accumulate in sediments of inland wetlands. Of the 81 wetlands sampled, 17 (21%) contained reduced sulfur in sediments at concentrations above suggested trigger values. Most of the affected wetlands were adjacent to the Murray River, with only several associated with other major river catchments. Reduced sulfur in the sediments was positively correlated with sulfate concentrations in the overlying water column. This represents a concern for wetland managers because of the increasing desire to return wetlands to a more natural wetting and drying cycle to improve wetland health. However, during drying, sulfidic sediments oxidise and produce acid, which may exceed the buffering capacity of the system and ultimately harm aquatic life. Therefore, if sulfidic sediments are present, a drying phase should only be reinstated after careful consideration of the potential acidification risks. This study verified that sulfidic sediments can occur in freshwater wetlands in concentrations that could pose an ecological risk if mismanaged.

authors

  • Hall, KC
  • Baldwin, DS
  • Rees, GN
  • Richardson, AJ

publication date

  • October 2006