Surface and sub-surface salinity in and around acid sulfate soil scalds in the coastal floodplains of New South Wales, Australia

Mark A. Rosicky, Peter Slavich, Leigh A. Sullivan, Mike Hughes

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Two-metre-deep soil profiles at 10 acid sulfate soil (ASS) scalds along the coast of New South Wales (NSW), Australia, were examined for salinity indicators. At 5 of the sites, permanently vegetated areas adjacent to the ASS-scalded land were also tested. Throughout the profiles, most sites had high soluble chloride (Cl-) concentrations (≤17 mg/g soil) and high soluble sulfate (SO42-) concentrations (≤17 mg/g soil). Very low Cl-:SO42- ratios (≤3) indicated active pyrite oxidation. Soil salinity (measured as electrical conductivity, EC) was extremely high in the top 2 m of most of the ASS scalds when related to the growth requirements of the typical introduced pasture species that were planted in these areas following drainage. This allows salinity, in addition to the extremely low pH of the surface soils, to contribute to land denudation, which can instigate or perpetuate pyrite oxidation and ASS-related land scalding. Although the sites had shallow watertables and soil-moisture content was high, the surface soil (top 0.10 m) of the scalds had consistently higher soluble Cl- and SO42- concentrations and EC than adjacent vegetated areas. All coastal ASS areas investigated, typically freshwater backswamps used for cattle grazing, were underlain by estuarine-derived sediments containing saline ground water. The results demonstrate that revegetation of ASS scalds must include investigation and management of salinity, in addition to acidity, within the soil profile and at the soil surface.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)17-25
Number of pages9
JournalAustralian Journal of Soil Research
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2006
Externally publishedYes


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