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Accueil du site → Doctorat → Australie → 2009 → Playas of the Yarra Yarra drainage system, Western Australia

University of Western Australia (2009)

Playas of the Yarra Yarra drainage system, Western Australia

Boggs, Dimity

Titre : Playas of the Yarra Yarra drainage system, Western Australia

Auteur : Boggs, Dimity

Grade : Doctor of Philosophy PhD (2009)

Université de soutenance : University of Western Australia Australie

Résumé
This thesis examines playas as integrated ecosystems, through investigation of long- and short-term processes associated with playa geomorphology, hydrology and diatom ecology, in playas of the Yarra Yarra drainage system of Western Australia. This landscape approach was conducted at a range of scales and consequently revealed a level of heterogeneity not previously described in Australian playas. The key result and common thread linking the three facets of the playas investigated is the importance of hydroperiod in defining the playa environment. The morphology and distribution of playas are described and the results presented of an examination of potential mechanisms determining intra-system variability. Measurements of the physical attributes of the playas, including length, area, shape, density and orientation, were made through Geographic Information System analysis and detailed interpretation of aerial photography. Two main morphological groups are distinguished : small (<10 ha), elliptical to circular playas with a NNW-SSE orientation ; and large (>30 ha), elongated playas. Regional patterns in geomorphic attributes are markedly different between the west and east sides of the system. The boundary between the two regions coincides approximately with rainfall distribution. In this respect, climate is an overarching driver of geomorphological variation but sub-catchment characteristics are also critical determinants. Littoral drift and segmentation processes that are common to coastal lagoons but not commonly described in playas were identified from visual interpretation of aerial photographs of spits, bars and cuspate shorelines. Six small playas, representing an hydrological continuum from mostly wet to mostly dry, were selected for investigation of their hydrology and diatom ecology, enabling assessment ii of the variability of hydrology, hydrochemistry and of the effects of different hydrological environments on the distribution of taxa. Hydroperiod was highly variable and central to determining playa geomorphology and biology. In the six playas it ranged from 19 to over 211 days, and filling frequency from 1 to 3 cycles between 2002 and 2004, reflecting rainfall and sub-catchment variability. Monitoring a series of nested piezometers revealed that the playas were net discharge points for ground water over the period of survey. However, small local vertical head variations indicate ground water does not discharge at the same rate across the playa surfaces and that playas may have short-lived phases of ground water recharge. Hydrochemically, the playas are typical of salt lakes in Australia. They displayed a wide range of salinity values, neutral to alkaline pH and ionic composition similar to sea water. It is postulated that the geochemical evolution of waters in the playas follows a pathway where low salinity recharge waters with dilute sea water salts progress to Na-Cl dominated brines through evaporative concentration. Surface waters showed an ionic dominance consistent with sea water with minor variations attributed to transitional phases in the geochemical evolution of the waters. Shallow ground waters showed a common and consistent pattern of ionic dominance : Na+ >Mg2+ >K+ >Ca2+ : Cl- >SO4 2- >HCO3 ->CO3 2-.

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