Salty Roads are a Danger to NC Amphibians

As winter arrives we faces issues of ice on our roads, yet the amphibians in NC experience excessive amounts of salt in their ponds. James Petranka, a biologist at UNC-Asheville, researched the negative effects of road salt towards wildlife in North Carolina. Overall, he found that the salt delays the process of salamander larvae while helping mosquitoes lay more eggs.

The Department of Transportation spreads more than 250,000,000 pounds of salt North Carolina roads each year. Petranka questioned if this was detrimental for the native amphibians yet found that the salt effects their growth and tampers with the food chain. In his process to discover these facts, Petranka ran a series of experiments. He placed around 60 wading pools outside and filled them with aged water. Next, to make the pools mimic those that house the salamanders, he added algae, crustaceans, water fleas, and leaf litter. Finally, he added a salamander larvae from nature and salt mix, at the same levels found in the ponds. Above is a photo of Petranka's experimental pools.

Petranka found from his test that the salamander larvae growth was reduced since the salt terminated the water fleas that they eat. In addition, the mosquitoes flourished due to the lack of salamander larvae that usually prevent them from laying their eggs. Alternatives have to salting our roads have been evaluated yet most are far to expensive for the massive number of roads that need to be covered. Research continues to be done to find a better precaution for our roads in the winter.

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