Natural Resources Research Articles

Phosphorus status and saturation in soils that drain into the Peel Inlet and Harvey Estuary of Western Australia

Document Type


Publication Date


Journal Title

Soil Research


Print: 1838-675X Electronic: 1838-6768


eutrophication, P saturation, P management, P loss, P efficiency, water quality, Peel–Harvey, estuary health


Agricultural Science | Environmental Monitoring | Soil Science


The Peel–Harvey estuarine system in Western Australia's south-west is affected by poor water quality, algal blooms, and fish kills. Phosphorus (P) discharge from agricultural activities is the main source of poor water quality. The catchment’s soils are naturally infertile, but P application has increased P fertility. This paper draws on and undertakes a meta-analysis of 20 200 surface (0–10 cm) and profile (to 100 cm depth) soil samples collected in the period 1983–2018. Soil P content was high, with 70% of samples with Colwell P content in excess of agronomic requirements; Production is more likely limited by low soil pH(CaCl2) and low K (92% and 67% of paddocks respectively). Strong P stratification in the soil is evident, particularly topsoil; sandy soils are saturated to depth; and clay soils show signs of P saturation in the topsoil. Management of P in sandy soil near the estuary is a high priority as is P stratification in highly P retentive soil. Soil P stocks increased since clearing compared with uncleared soils (1221 kg ha–1 m–1 and 285–694 kg ha–1 m–1, respectively). Thirteen percent of samples had P content in excess of agronomic requirements in 1983, rising slowly to 69% in 2018. Landholder practices need to be analysed in detail to confirm if this accumulation occurs everywhere or is only confined to actively farmed land.



Digital Object Identifier (DOI)