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Road De-icing Salt and Amphibians: Assessing Impacts on Demography and Ecological GeneticsEPA Grant Number: MA916305
Title: Road De-icing Salt and Amphibians: Assessing Impacts on Demography and Ecological Genetics
Investigators: Karraker, Nancy E.
Institution: SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry
EPA Project Officer: Zambrana, Jose
Project Period: January 1, 2004 through December 31, 2006
Project Amount: $95,091
RFA: GRO Fellowships for Graduate Environmental Study (2004) RFA Text | Recipients Lists
Research Category: Fellowship - Environmental Science , Academic Fellowships , Ecological Indicators/Assessment/Restoration
An emerging environmental issue associated with roads is the effect of compounds applied to road surfaces to control ice buildup in winter. Roadside wetlands are particularly vulnerable to road salt contamination, yet little research has been conducted to date on the effects of road salt on communities of aquatic organisms. The primary objective of my research project is to examine the effects of road de-icing salts on the fauna of aquatic ecosystems in the northeastern United States. This research will focus on the growth, survival, and ecological genetics of native amphibians that breed in seasonally inundated wetlands.
Water quality data will be collected in approximately 40 roadside and 15 forest pools from April to November for 3 years to examine the distance that saline runoff travels from roads and how salinity concentrations vary over time. Pools will be surveyed for breeding populations of wood frogs (Rana sylvatica) and spotted salamanders (Ambystoma maculatum) each year. Laboratory and field experiments will be conducted to determine how different salinity concentrations affect growth and survival of amphibians. Transplant experiments will be used to determine whether adaptation to road salt is occurring in populations breeding in roadside pools. Preliminary data indicate that road salt travels at least 170 m from the pavement and into roadside wetlands, potentially influencing the size of breeding populations in roadside vernal pools. Given the sensitivity of amphibian eggs and skin to changes in the ionic concentrations of their aquatic environments, I expect to find that elevated salinity levels in these pools reduces the growth and survival of native amphibians and causes malformations. As populations persist in these impacted wetlands, I anticipate that some level of adaptation to road salt is occurring in these organisms. Understanding the ways in which road salt may be impacting amphibians, the area over which these impacts may be occurring, and whether amphibians are adapting to a constant source of contamination will shed light on the future viability of amphibian populations breeding in wetlands in the vicinity of roads.
fellowship, road de-icing, ecological genetics, wood frogs, Rana sylvatica, spotted salamanders, Ambystoma maculatum, roadside wetlands, road salt, amphibian populations,