Testing the limits of riparian trees along Magela Creek

18 May 2020

How sensitive are riparian trees to contaminated mine water?


Associate Professor Sam Setterfield (UWA) and Adam Bourke (CDU) in the greenhouse at CDU, photo Lindsay Hutley.

Magela Creek, in Kakadu National Park, flows through the Ranger uranium mine lease. Leaching of magnesium sulfate (MgSO4) into the creek from the rehabilitated mine site is a significant concern for the long-term health of riparian vegetation. Hub research has found that elevated concentrations of MgSO4 have little to no impact on three of the four common tree species tested for MgSO4 toxicity in glasshouse trials.

Only Alphitonia excelsa (red ash) showed reduced growth at high MgSO4 concentrations. Further experiments on red ash, along with two additional riverbank species important to Kakadu’s Traditional Owners (freshwater mangrove and river pandanus) are now underway.

The research, led by Associate Professor Samantha Setterfield of the University of Western Australia and Professor Lindsay Hutley of Charles Darwin University in collaboration with the Australian Government’s Supervising Scientist Branch, is also investigating the dependence of riparian vegetation on groundwater, which is the source of water most likely to be affected by the leaching of MgSO4 from waste rock. Read more in the project update.


Magela Creek

Magela Creek flows through the Ranger uranium mine lease and into surrounding Kakadu National Park.

Recent Hub News

  • Jun 22, 2021

    Northern Hub news (June 2021)

    Northern Australia December 2020 update. We’re in the final months of the NESP Northern Australia Environmental Resources Hub and we […]

  • Jun 04, 2021

    Veins of the Country

        In the face of growing interest in the waters of the Warlibiddi and Martuwarra (Margaret and Fitzroy Rivers) […]

  • May 27, 2021

    Research data & tools handover to Fitzroy Traditional Owners

    Delegates from the Bunuba, Gooniyandi, Walalakoo and Yanunijarra Prescribed Bodies Corporate (PBCs) and staff from the Kimberley Land Council enjoyed […]

  • fsdf
View more Hub news

North Australia News

Our Northern Hub Newsletter highlights what's going on in our research projects across northern Australia. It includes latest findings, what's coming up and what this all means for sustainable development and land and water management in the region.

Latest eNewsletters

Stay Informed

Want to know more about Hub activities and the development of northern Australia? Stay informed of activities, research, publications, events and more through the Hub Newsletter.

Subscribe to our mailing list

* indicates required