Porewater Geochemistry of Inland Acid Sulfate Soils with Sulfuric Horizons Following Postdrought Reflooding with Freshwater

N Creeper, Paul Shand, Warren Hicks, R Fitzpatrick

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    14 Citations (Scopus)


    Following the break of a severe drought in the Murray-Darling Basin, rising water levels restored subaqueous conditions to dried inland acid sulfate soils with sulfuric horizons (pH <3.5). Equilibrium dialysis membrane samplers were used to investigate in situ changes to soil acidity and abundance of metals and metalloids following the first 24 mo of restored subaqueous conditions. The rewetted sulfuric horizons remained severely acidified (pH ~4) or had retained acidity with jarosite visibly present after 5 mo of continuous subaqueous conditions. A further 19 mo of subaqueous conditions resulted in only small additional increases in pH (~0.5-1 pH units), with the largest increases occurring within the uppermost 10 cm of the soil profile. Substantial decreases in concentrations of some metal(loid)s were observed with time most likely owing to lower solubility and sorption as a consequence of the increase in pH. In deeper parts of the profiles, porewater remained strongly buffered at low pH values (pH <4.5) and experienced little progression toward anoxic circumneutral pH conditions over the 24 mo of subaqueous conditions. It is proposed that low pH conditions inhibited the activity of SO42--reducing bacteria and, in turn, the in situ generation of alkalinity through pyrite production. The limited supply of alkalinity in freshwater systems and the initial highly buffered low pH conditions were also thought to be slowing recovery. The timescales involved for a sulfuric horizon rewetted by a freshwater body to recover from acidic conditions could therefore be in the order of several years.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)989-1000
    Number of pages12
    JournalJournal of Environmental Quality
    Issue number3
    Publication statusPublished - 2015


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