Environmental Science and Pollution Research

, Volume 23, Issue 6, pp 5915–5924 | Cite as

Assessment of factors limiting algal growth in acidic pit lakes—a case study from Western Australia, Australia

  • R. Naresh Kumar
  • Clint D. McCullough
  • Mark A. Lund
  • Santiago A. Larranaga
Research Article


Open-cut mining operations can form pit lakes on mine closure. These new water bodies typically have low nutrient concentrations and may have acidic and metal-contaminated waters from acid mine drainage (AMD) causing low algal biomass and algal biodiversity. A preliminary study was carried out on an acidic coal pit lake, Lake Kepwari, in Western Australia to determine which factors limited algal biomass. Water quality was monitored to obtain baseline data. pH ranged between 3.7 and 4.1, and solute concentrations were slightly elevated to levels of brackish water. Concentrations of N were highly relative to natural lakes, although concentrations of FRP (<0.01 mg/L) and C (total C 0.7–3.7 and DOC 0.7–3.5 mg/L) were very low, and as a result, algal growth was also extremely low. Microcosm experiment was conducted to test the hypothesis that nutrient enrichment will be able to stimulate algal growth regardless of water quality. Microcosms of Lake Kepwari water were amended with N, P and C nutrients with and without sediment. Nutrient amendments under microcosm conditions could not show any significant phytoplankton growth but was able to promote benthic algal growth. P amendments without sediment showed a statistically higher mean algal biomass concentration than controls or microcosms amended with phosphorus but with sediment did. Results indicated that algal biomass in acidic pit lake (Lake Kepwari) may be limited primarily by low nutrient concentrations (especially phosphorus) and not by low pH or elevated metal concentrations. Furthermore, sediment processes may also reduce the nutrient availability.


AMD Pit lakes Algae Biomass pH Nutrients Chlorophyll a 



We acknowledge the financial support provided by the Australian Coal Association Research Program (ACARP) through research grant C19018. Thanks to our industry partner, Premier Coal for their support and site access, in particular to Dr. Digby Short. Thanks to Mark Bannister (School of Natural Sciences, Edith Cowan University) for assistance with laboratory analyses. The infrastructure and support of Edith Cowan University for this research is also acknowledged. Thanks to the anonymous reviewers for comments on the previous version which helped to improve the manuscript.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • R. Naresh Kumar
    • 1
    • 2
  • Clint D. McCullough
    • 1
    • 3
  • Mark A. Lund
    • 1
  • Santiago A. Larranaga
    • 1
  1. 1.Mine Water and Environment Research Centre (MiWER), Centre for Ecosystem ManagementEdith Cowan UniversityJoondalupAustralia
  2. 2.Department of Civil and Environmental EngineeringBirla Institute of Technology, MesraRanchiIndia
  3. 3.Golder Associates Pty LtdWest PerthAustralia

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