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Insufficient government guidelines to protect freshwater ecosystems from salt pollution

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According to an international survey of researchers at the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, current water quality guidelines do not protect freshwater ecosystems from increased salt pollution from road de-icing salts, agricultural fertilizers and mining operations. ..Released today Minutes of the National Academy of Sciences ((((PNAS), Studies show that freshwater salinization causes massive loss of zooplankton and increase in algae-if levels are within established low thresholds across Canada, the United States, and Europe. but.


“Salt pollution Freshwater lakeStreams, wetlands with biodiversity, even when restricted to levels specially selected to protect the environment Freshwater ecosystem.. This is a global issue that can affect ecosystems and human health, “said the study’s co-author, expert on the effects of road salt on freshwater ecosystems, and Renseria’s Darin Freshwater. Rick Leria, director of the institute, said. As we have seen in their area, the community is learning how to apply road salt in smarter ways while providing safe roads and saving considerable money on removing snow and ice. am. “

Dr. Relyea, a member of the Renseria Biotechnology and Interdisciplinary Research Center and director of the Jefferson Project at Lake George, has conducted extensive research on the effects of road salt on the aquatic environment.His work helped establish it Road salt masculine growing frogs When Erase the circadian rhythm of zooplankton.. In a recent study, Dr. Relyea collaborated with an experimental network of 16 sites in four countries, North America and Europe. Earlier this year, Dr. Relyea and her network produced an experimental discovery led by Canadian scientist Marie-Pier Hébert. Lake salinization reduces zooplankton abundance and diversity..

The PNAS A study led by the University of Toledo and Queen’s University in Kingston Salinity To the extent below, government regulators consider freshwater organisms to be safe and protective, causing serious damage to freshwater lakes.

In particular, elevated salt levels threaten zooplankton, an important food resource for many young fish, and changes caused by elevated salt levels alter nutrient cycles, water quality, and transparency of economically important fish species. It can cause growth and population decline.

According to researchers, this result is a major threat to the biodiversity and function of freshwater ecosystems, indicating an urgent need for governments to reassess current threshold concentrations to protect lakes from salt damage. I am. Sodium chlorideOne of the most common types of salt that leads to salt damage in freshwater lakes.

“Salt pollution from human activities, such as the use of de-icing salt on roads, increases the salt content of freshwater ecosystems and guidelines designed to protect freshwater are not working,” said Toledo University. Co-leader of ecosystems, authors and projects. “Our study shows the ecological costs of salinization, reassessing and reducing existing chloride thresholds and providing sound guidelines in countries where they do not exist to protect lakes from salt damage. Indicates an urgent need to set. “

The lowest threshold for chloride concentration in the United States established by the Environmental Protection Agency is 230 milligrams of chloride per liter. In Canada, there are 120 milligrams of chloride per liter. Thresholds are generally high throughout Europe.

Less than a teaspoon of salt can contaminate 5 gallons of water and can be harmful to many aquatic organisms.

In other countries, such as Germany, chloride concentrations of 50-200 milligrams per liter are classified as “slightly contaminated with salt” and 200-400 milligrams per liter are “moderately contaminated with salt”. It is classified as “contaminated”. Drinking water guidelines are 250 milligrams per liter in many parts of Europe.

However, as research shows, adverse effects occur well below these limits. In almost three-quarters of the survey areas, the chloride concentration threshold that caused a 50% or greater reduction in zooplankton was below the government-set chloride threshold.

Loss of zooplankton caused a cascade effect, causing an increase in phytoplankton biomass or microscopic freshwater algae in almost half of the research sites.

Shelley Arnott, a professor of aquatic ecology at Queen’s University and co-leader of the project and dissertation, said: “The loss of zooplankton that leads to more algae can change lake The services the lake provides: recreational opportunities, drinking water quality, and ecosystems in ways that can change the fishing industry. “

Scientists have opted to study the zooplankton community from natural habitats rather than short-term, single-species laboratory studies. Within the zooplankton community.

This study was designed to better understand how chloride thresholds are maintained in a more natural ecological environment.

They focused on determining whether current chloride-based water quality guidelines protect lake organisms in areas with different geology, hydrochemistry, land use, and species pools.

“Lakes contaminated with many salts with chloride concentrations near or above the established thresholds throughout North America and Europe may already be experiencing changes in the food network,” Dr. Hintz said. Said. “This applies to lakes around the world, not just across research sites, and variations in experimental results show how new thresholds integrate the susceptibility of ecosystem communities on a regional and regional scale. Government guidelines may protect freshwater organisms. In some areas, they do not apply to many parts of the United States, Canada, and Europe. “

Solutions also include finding ways to carefully balance the human use of salt that causes salt damage in freshwater with its impact on ecosystems, such as reducing the amount of roads. salt It was used to melt winter snow and ice to maintain the safety of people and the movement of traffic. Previous studies led by Dr. Hintz Best management practice..

Scientists from all over the world have contributed to the research “Currently Water quality North American and European guidelines do not protect lakes from salt damage. ”


Studies suggest that reducing the use of winter road salt is very important and suggests best practices.


For more information:
Current water quality guidelines in North America and Europe do not protect lakes from salt damage. Minutes of the National Academy of Sciences (2022). DOI: 10.1073 / pnas.2115033119..

Quote: Insufficient government guidelines to protect freshwater ecosystems from salt pollution (21 February 2022) 21 February 2022 https://phys.org/news/2022-02-guidelines-insufficient- Obtained from freshwater-ecosystem-salt.html

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Insufficient government guidelines to protect freshwater ecosystems from salt pollution

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