Mangrove soils as sinks for wastewater-borne pollutants

N. F.Y. Tam, Y. S. Wong

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

118 Citations (Scopus)


Soil column leaching experiments were conducted to assess the retention of nutrients and heavy metals in two types of mangrove soils receiving strong wastewater throughout a period of 5 months. NH4+-N was the dominant form of nitrogen, nitrite and nitrate were in relatively low concentrations in all leachate collected. The concentrations of NH4+-N in leachate collected from columns packed with Sai Keng of Hong Kong mangrove soil were higher than those packed with soils collected from Shenzhen of China. The leachate NH4+-N contents of Shenzhen columns were significantly lower than that of the synthetic wastewater even at the end of the experimental period, indicating Shenzhen soils had very high capacity to bind nitrogen, and the amount of ammonium added from wastewater did not exceed the binding capacity of mangrove soil. The data also suggest that soils collected from Shenzhen mangrove swamp had higher capacity in retaining wastewater nitrogen than the Sai Keng soils. In contrast, leachate from Sai Keng columns had significantly lower ortho-P contents than those from Shenzhen columns. Actually, the leachate P concentrations of the Sai Keng columns treated with wastewater were similar to those receiving seawater (< 0.1 mg l-). This finding implies Sai Keng soils were very effective in retaining wastewater P. Throughout the experiment, most heavy metals, including Cu, Zn, Cd, Ni and Cr were not detected in all leachate samples by flame atomic absorption spectrophotometry, indicating that both types of mangrove soils were capable of trapping wastewater-borne heavy metals. The study demonstrates that mangrove soils were good traps to immobilize wastewater-borne phosphorus and heavy metals but they were less efficient in retaining nitrogen from wastewater.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)231-241
Number of pages11
Issue number1-3
Publication statusPublished - Jan 1995
Externally publishedYes


  • heavy metal
  • mangrove
  • nutrients
  • sink
  • soil/sediment
  • wastewater


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