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The effect of pH on plant litter decomposition and metal cycling in wetland mesocosms supplied with mine drainage

Lookup NU author(s): Professor Paul Younger


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The long term effectiveness of compost-based wetland systems treating net-acidic mine waters is reliant upon a continuing supply of decomposed organic matter which provides the basic foodstock for sulphate reducing bacteria. The annual turnover of wetland vegetation within these systems has been suggested to be the primary source for this material once the original substrate has been consumed. This study aimed to determine whether plant litter (of Common Reed, Phragmites australis) decomposition rates and release of metals and nutrients were affected by pH using controlled experiments under laboratory conditions. Loss of plant biomass was found to be unaffected by pH (3.0-6.5) suggesting that plant litter could be an important source of organic molecules for bacterial populations even under acidic conditions. The decomposing plant litter also acted as a focus for the precipitation of Fe oxides and sorption of Zn thereby acting as a short-term sink for these contaminants. This has important implications for geochemical cycling within the wetland system and potential transport out of the system. The essential nutrients (K and Mg) released from plant litter were affected by pH which could be important in nutrient availability for re-use by vegetation and other organisms within the system. © 2006 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Batty LC, Younger PL

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Chemosphere

Year: 2007

Volume: 66

Issue: 1

Pages: 158-164

ISSN (print): 0045-6535

ISSN (electronic): 1879-1298

Publisher: Pergamon


DOI: 10.1016/j.chemosphere.2006.05.039

PubMed id: 16820189


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