Improved detection of coastal acid sulfate soil hotspots through biomonitoring of metal(loid) accumulation in water lilies (Nymphaea capensis)

Jacqueline L. Stroud*, Richard N. Collins

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)


Anthropogenically disturbed coastal acid sulfate soils along the east coast of Australia, and worldwide, periodically result in the discharge of acid waters containing high concentrations of metals. Identifying priority sites (hotspots) within a catchment for acid sulfate soil remediation activities typically involves long-term monitoring of drainwater chemistry, including the capture of data on unpredictable rain-induced groundwater discharge events. To improve upon this monitoring approach, this study investigated using the water lily (Nymphaea capensis) as a biomonitor of drainage waters to identify hotspots in three acid sulfate soil impacted catchments (83km2) in north-eastern New South Wales, Australia. In one catchment where the location of hotspots was known, water lily lamina concentrations of a suite of metal(loid)s were significantly (p<0.05) higher than plants collected from an unpolluted 'reference' drainage channel, thus validating the concept of using this species as a biomonitor. A catchment-scale water lily sampling program undertaken in catchments with unidentified hotspots revealed within catchment variation of plant metal concentrations up to 70-fold. High resolution maps produced from these results, therefore, provided strong evidence for the location of potential hotspots which were confirmed with measurements of drainwater chemistry during rain-induced groundwater discharge events. Median catchment lily accumulation was ca. 160mgAlkg-1 and 1300mgFekg-1, with hotspots containing up to 6- and 10-fold higher Al and Fe concentrations. These findings suggest that biomonitoring with N. capensis can be an important tool to rapidly identify priority sites for remediation in acid sulfate soil impacted landscapes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)500-505
Number of pages6
JournalScience of the Total Environment
Issue number1
Early online date4 May 2014
Publication statusPrint publication - 15 Jul 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • Bioavailability
  • Biomonitor
  • Lily
  • Metals
  • Sentinel
  • Water pollution


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