During the winter, much of North America uses road salts in order to reduce ice coverage on roads and highways. Unfortunately, these salts have a negative impact on all aquatic life living beside or adjacent to these roads.
Road salts can have an incredibly negative impact on salamander populations that reside near roads. Surveys conducted by SUNY (State University of New York) shows that egg mass densities of Spotted Salamanders (A. maculatum) two times lower in roadside ditches, than they are in forested pools. This is due to the toxic salinity from road run off. Demographic models suggest that use of road salts can lead too local population extinctions (extirpation).
To combat the negative effects of salt in the Eco-systems, several communities have started testing the use of beet wastewater, cheese brine, pickle juice and potato juice. The carbohydrates in beet wastewater is seen as an effective alternative to rock salts as it reduces the melting point from -10C (14F) to -20C (-4F).
People whom use salts on their pathways and driveways can use the following as more eco-friendly alternatives to salt:
Sand is a great alternative to salt. It provides traction, is inexpensive, and sweeps up easily. Brick sand is best because it is coarser and more granular than regular sand. Sand also has a relatively low “albedo”, which means it will absorb sunlight, helping to thaw ice and snow and contribute to faster melting.
Ashes. If you have a wood burning fireplace at home, ashes are a convenient and economical alternative to salt. Ashes provide traction and will melt ice quickly when it is sunny. Make sure to keep ashes away from food gardens, as there may be heavy metals present in ashes.
Kitty Litter. This option may be more expensive than other alternatives, but it provides a great deal of traction. Unfortunately, the residual material has a tendency to turn into mush as the snow and ice melts.
EcoTraction. One commercial alternative that shows promise is “EcoTraction”. Limited application of this product, used in conjunction with sand, has worked well for providing traction.
Using this alternatives will not only keep people safe during the winter months, but it will also benefit salamanders and a myriad of other species as well!
Clint Fulsom – Save The Salamanders