Water Resources Research Act Program

Details for Project ID 2015CT290B

Effects of Road Salts on Ephemeral Wetland Ecosystems

Institute: Connecticut
Year Established: 2015 Start Date: 2015-03-01 End Date: 2016-02-29
Total Federal Funds: $11,025 Total Non-Federal Funds: $22,781

Principal Investigators: Ashley Helton, Tracy Rittenhouse

Abstract: Ephemeral wetlands are widespread, provide important habitats for many aquatic species, and are severely altered by human activities. Although ephemeral wetlands are typically smaller in size than their permanent counterparts, in the Northeast U.S., they can make up a large portion of the aquatic landscape, and are also protected in many states, including Connecticut. In the Northeast U.S., where chemical deicer is used on roadways in winter months, salinization of surface waters and groundwater is a pervasive problem in ephemeral wetlands. Road salts have a wide range of direct impact on ephemeral wetland ecosystems. Elevated salinities in roadside wetlands 1) can disrupt osmoregulation of eggs and reduce larval survival of wood frogs and spotted salamanders, 2) are correlated with shifts in invertebrate communities to more salt-tolerant species, and 3) may also influence microbial processing of C and N and resulting trace gas emissions. These effects have typically been studied outside of the natural environment (i.e., in mesocosm experiments), and in isolation from one another. For this proposal, we will quantify these ecological responses along a natural gradient of urbanization for approx. 40 ephemeral wetlands in Connecticut by monitoring wood frog and salamander breeding activity, estimating the abundance of amphibian egg masses, estimating the abundance of salt-tolerant invertebrate larvae, and measuring microbially-mediated greenhouse gas emissions.