Abundance and fractionation of Al, Fe and trace metals following tidal inundation of a tropical acid sulfate soil

Scott G. Johnston, Edward D. Burton, Richard T. Bush, Annabelle F. Keene, Leigh A. Sullivan, Douglas Smith, Angus E. McElnea, Col R. Ahern, Bernard Powell

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44 Citations (Scopus)


Tidal inundation was restored to a severely degraded tropical acid sulfate soil landscape and subsequent changes in the abundance and fractionation of Al, Fe and selected trace metals were investigated. After 5 a of regular tidal inundation there were large decreases in water-soluble and exchangeable Al fractions within former sulfuric horizons. This was strongly associated with decreased soil acidity and increases in pH, suggesting pH-dependent immobilisation of Al via precipitation as poorly soluble phases. The water-soluble fractions of Fe, Zn, Ni and Mn also decreased. However, there was substantial enrichment (2-5×) of the reactive Fe fraction (FeR; 1 M HCl extractable) near the soil surface, plus a closely corresponding enrichment of 1 M HCl extractable Cr, Zn, Ni and Mn. Surficial accumulations of Fe(III) minerals in the inter-tidal zone were poorly crystalline (up to 38% FeR) and comprised mainly of schwertmannite (Fe8O8(OH)6SO4) with minor quantities of goethite (α-FeOOH) and lepidocrocite (γ-FeOOH). These Fe (III) mineral accumulations provide an effective substrate for the adsorption/co-precipitation and accumulation of trace metals. Arsenic displayed contrary behaviour to trace metals with peak concentrations (∼60 μg g-1) near the redox minima. Changes in the abundance and fractionation of the various metals can be primarily explained by the shift in the geochemical regime from oxic-acidic to reducing-circumneutral conditions, combined with the enrichment of reactive Fe near the soil surface. Whilst increasing sequestration of trace metals via sulfidisation is likely to occur over the long-term, the current abundance of reactive Fe near the sediment-water interface favours a dynamic environment with respect to metals in the tidally inundated areas.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)323-335
Number of pages13
JournalApplied Geochemistry
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2010
Externally publishedYes


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