State Water Resources Research Institute Program (WRRI)
USGS Grant Number:
Start Date: 2008-02-01 End Date: 2010-01-31
Total Federal Funds: $187,474 Total Non-Federal Funds: $187,690
Principal Investigators: Joel Snodgrass, Ryan Casey, Edward Landa, Steven Lev
Abstract: Stormwater management ponds are common features of more recent development and are required by most state and local governments as part of more comprehensive stormwater management practices. Storm water ponds are design to mitigating the impacts of pollutants and stormwater runoff generated by impervious areas, lawns, and other highly managed surfaces typical of urban and suburban areas. By intercepting and detaining runoff before it enters natural water bodies, storm water ponds promote biological and physical removal and detention of pollutants, dissipation of thermal pollution, and groundwater recharge, ultimately protecting hydrological and water quality characteristics of natural streams and wetlands. While storm water ponds are human created habitats, they may superficially resemble natural wetlands and attract wildlife use; some have even suggested that storm water ponds be used as mitigation for wetlands destroyed during development. However, others have argued that these ponds may represent significant threats to wildlife in urban and suburban areas as they may serve to expose wildlife to the pollutants they are designed to sequester. Moreover, while short-term (individual storm event) studies indicate storm water ponds are affective at removing pollutants, the effectiveness of ponds over longer time scales (years) and the interaction of these ponds with human populations have received little or no attention. Preliminary studies of ponds in the Washington DC/Baltimore metropolitan region suggest that under some conditions ponds may not be effective at retaining pollutants such as Zinc (Zn) and road deicing salts (primarily NaCl), and may even act as ecological traps for amphibians. Ecological traps are habitats that attract wildlife only to reduce the reproductive success or survival of individuals that utilize the habitat. Here we propose investigations in three areas: 1) longer-term storage and fate of pollutants entering storm water ponds; 2) habitat quality of storm water ponds for amphibians and their potential role as ecological traps; 3) human perceptions and interactions with storm water ponds. We will focus on Zn and NaCl because of their known association with storm water ponds and their potential for synergistic toxicological interactions. We will use a large-scale survey of sediment and water chemistry and use of ponds by wood frogs (Rana sylvatica) and American toads (Bufo americanus) over a range of land use conditions (commercial/industrial, residential, transportation) to assess the potential for a sensitive amphibian species to be attracted to ponds with potentially toxic conditions. To directly assess toxicity under realistic field conditions established during the large-scale field survey, we will use field assessments and laboratory bioassays of wood frog and American toad embryo and larval development and survival. To investigate long-term storage, transformation, and potential groundwater transport of metals, NaCl, and PAHs entering storm water ponds, we will use more intensive investigation of representative ponds from different land uses and laboratory experiments. We will use surveys of citizen attitudes toward ponds to assess the potential for ponds to serve as a focal point of contact for wildlife education in urban and suburban settings. Ultimately, by incorporating both laboratory and field studies at the intersection of biology, chemistry and geology, and relating our findings to land use/land cover, we hope to provide a basis for proactive management of storm water ponds while providing undergraduate and graduate students opportunities to engage in interdisciplinary research typical of todays environmental problems.