Chemical water quality in the Ba Catchment coastal zone – 2019

Within Pacific Small Island Developing States (Pacific SIDS), the ridge-to-reef (R2R) approach has emerged as a framework for monitoring river connectivity between terrestrial and marine ecosystems. The study measured water quality, including pH and a range of other physical and chemical properties over 88.40 km of the Ba River in Fiji. The sampling design focused on measuring spatio-temporal variability in pH throughout the sugarcane season (April – August) with three rapid sampling periods (RSP1, 2 and 3) along the Ba River, together with continuous measurement of temperature and pH using stationary data loggers at two locations upstream and downstream of the sugar mill (April to August 2019). Spatial variability in pH and water quality was characterized before (RSP1 and RSP2) and during (RSP3) the sugarcane season. Mean pH measured before the sugarcane crushing season for RSP1 and RSP2 were 8.16 (± 0.49) and 8.20 (± 0.61) respectively. During the sugarcane crushing season (RSP3) mean pH declined by 3.06 units to 6.94 within 42 m downstream of the sugar mill (P < 0.001). The 3.06 unit decline in pH for RSP3 exceeded both the mean diurnal variation in pH of 0.39 and mean seasonal variation in pH of 2.01. This decline in pH could be a potential source of acidification to downstream coastal ecosystems with implications for coral reefs, biodiversity and fishery livelihoods.