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Changes in the chemistry and biota of Lake Carey: a large salt lake impacted by hypersaline discharge from mining operations in Western Australia


The environment of Lake Carey, a large salt lake in the goldfields of Western Australia, has been subjected to mining for the past 100 years. The effect of discharge of hypersaline water to the playa as a result of pit dewatering has been a grave concern. The aim of this paper was to investigate the influences of seasonal parameters and mining activity on the physico-chemical and biological attributes of Lake Carey. Assessment of water and sediment chemistry and benthic microbial communities (BMCs) has been carried out opportunistically since 1999, with particular emphasis on the differences between sites receiving dewatering discharge currently or in the past (Impacted Sites), and those which have never received dewatering discharge (Control Sites). Results of water and sediment analyses indicated that the impacts of dewatering discharge on Lake Carey were localised and evident in the vicinity of the discharge sites. However, large rainfall events, such as the cyclonic rainfall in 2004, could result in flushing and amelioration of sediments. This was also reflected in the sites which were historically impacted by dewatering discharge. The sites directly impacted by dewatering discharge displayed poor abundance and species richness of diatoms compared to the sites unaffected by dewatering discharge. However, recovery of these sites in terms of species richness and abundance is also initiated by large rainfall events, as shown by data collected from the historical dewatering discharge sites.

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This work has been sponsored by the Lake Carey Catchment Management Group (LCCMG), which consists of mining companies present on the peripheries of the lake. The assistance of Belinda Bastow, Paul Ritchie, Nicole Mittan, Sarah Pollock, Tim Stevens, Sophie Gaunt of the LCCMG is acknowledged. Our thanks to Fiona Taukulis and Veronica Campagna for help with diatom identification.

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Correspondence to J. John.

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Guest Editors: J. John & B. Timms

Salt Lake Research: Biodiversity and Conservation—Selected papers from the 9th Conference of the International Society for Salt Lake Research

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Gregory, S.J., Ward, M.J. & John, J. Changes in the chemistry and biota of Lake Carey: a large salt lake impacted by hypersaline discharge from mining operations in Western Australia. Hydrobiologia 626, 53–66 (2009).

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  • Dewatering discharge
  • Hypersaline
  • Benthic microbial communities