Dredging and deposition of metal sulfide rich river sediments results in rapid conversion to acid sulfate soil materials

Anders Johnson*, Eva Högfors-Rönnholm, Sten Engblom, Peter Österholm, Mats Åström, Mark Dopson

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)
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Sediments along the Baltic Sea coast can contain considerable amounts of metal sulfides that if dredged and the spoils deposited such that they are exposed to air, can release high concentrations of acid and toxic metals into recipient water bodies. Two river estuaries in western Finland were dredged from 2013 to 2018 and the dredge spoils were deposited on land previously covered with agricultural limestone to buffer the pH and mitigate acid and metal release. In this study, the geochemistry and 16S rRNA gene amplicon based bacterial communities were investigated over time to explore whether the application of lime prevented a conversion of the dredge spoils into acid producing and metal releasing soil. The pH of the dredge spoils decreased with time indicating metal sulfide oxidation and resulted in elevated sulfate concentrations along with a concomitant release of metals. However, calculations indicated only approximately 5% of the added lime had been dissolved. The bacterial communities decreased in diversity with the lowering of the pH as taxa most similar to extremely acidophilic sulfur, and in some cases iron, oxidizing Acidithiobacillus species became the dominant characterized genus in the deposited dredge spoils as the oxidation front moved deeper. In addition, other taxa characterized as involved in oxidation of iron or sulfur were identified including Gallionella, Sulfuricurvum, and Sulfurimonas. These data suggest there was a rapid conversion of the dredge spoils to severely acidic soil similar to actual acid sulfate soil and that the lime placed on the land prior to deposition of the spoils, and later ploughed into the dry dredge spoils, was insufficient to halt this process. Hence, future dredging and deposition of dredge spoils containing metal sulfides should not only take into account the amount of lime used for buffering but also its grain size and mixing into the soil.

Original languageEnglish
Article number151864
JournalScience of the Total Environment
Publication statusPublished - 2021
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


  • 16S rRNA gene
  • Acidophile
  • Iron
  • Mitigation
  • Oxidation
  • Pyrite


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