Coastal Acid Sulfate Soils
Key departmental publications, e.g. annual reports, budget papers and program guidelines are available in our online archive.
Much of the material listed on these archived web pages has been superseded, or served a particular purpose at a particular time. It may contain references to activities or policies that have no current application. Many archived documents may link to web pages that have moved or no longer exist, or may refer to other documents that are no longer available.
The Coastal Acid Sulfate Soils Program an Australia's Oceans Policy initiative, was funded through the first phase of the Natural Heritage Trust.
The National Coastal Acid Sulfate Soils web site is a response to the need for information on national coastal acid sulfate soils issues. Water quality problems associated with coastal acid sulfate soils have been traditionally recognized as a NSW and Qld problem. With the January 2000 release of the National Strategy for the Management of Coastal Acid Sulfate Soils (PDF - 382 KB), other states and the Northern Territory have begun dialogue on the problems faced by coastal acid sulfate soils at a national level.
The national web site is not an exhaustive collection of re-written information on coastal acid sulfate soils. It is a central information source, or portal by which a person can search for information on specific coastal acid sulfate soils issues.
The layout mirrors the objectives of the National Strategy for the Management of Coastal Acid Sulfate Soils.
Acid sulfate soils underlie large areas of Australia's coastline where the majority of Australians live. These soils were formed long ago, underwater, when the ocean level was much higher. As the seas receded, these soils remained and today can be found under low-lying coastal areas like coastal plains, wetlands and mangroves.
Indicative distribution of coastal acid sulfate soils in Australia
(source, National Strategy for the Management of Coastal Acid Sulfate Soils, January 2000)
In an undisturbed and waterlogged state these soils are relatively harmless, but when disturbed and exposed to oxygen through drainage or excavation, these soils produce sulfuric acid in large quantities.
After rain and particularly following prolonged dry periods, the built up sulfuric acid in these soils is released. As the acid moves through the soil profile it releases other toxins, like heavy metals. This toxic cocktail eventually flows into surrounding waterways. Toxic "slugs" of concentrated acid runoff can flow into estuaries — significantly decreasing water quality, killing fish and damaging sensitive ecosystems.
Coastal development for tourism, towns and agriculture has disturbed large areas of acid sulfate soils. This disturbance has caused major problems for New South Wales and Queensland. These states have the most coastal development and they account for most of the activity to address the problem.
The impacts of coastal acid sulfate soil runoff come at a significant environmental, economic and social cost to coastal communities. Besides the obvious impact on the environment such as fish kills, acid runoff has been attributed to the decline or failure of fishery and aquaculture industries. Naturally, the ecological damage compromises valuable tourist resources like good fishing grounds, swimming areas and other water sports areas. Acid discharges also damage town services and structures like pipes, foundations, drains, bridges and flood controls.
For further information on Coastal Acid Sulfate Soils contact:
Christina Clay - email@example.com -
Acid Sulfate Soil Project Officer
Department of Primary Industries
Wollongbar Agricultural Institute
1243 Bruxner Highway
Ph: (02) 6626 1355