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Road deicing salts are frequently used in northern regions of the world during the winter and early spring months. As a result, a significant portion of road runoff into surrounding aquatic habitats contains road deicing salts. Previous studies found road salt contaminations in vernal pools that pond-breeding amphibians commonly use, including spotted salamanders (Ambystoma maculatum) and wood frogs (Lithobates sylvaticus). Studies have examined the impact of road salt on both amphibian species, but to our knowledge no previous studies have examined how road salt impacts the interspecific competition between both amphibians. We hypothesized that road salt would negatively impact growth and survivorship of both amphibian species. During the spring and summer of 2017, we conducted an outdoor mesocosm experiment in which we created eight experimental conditions with three main factors:presence/absence of NaCl (1000 mg/L Cl ), presence/absence of interspecific competition between the two amphibian species (A. maculatum and L. sylvaticus ), and presence/absence of predatory dragonfly larvae (Family Libellulidae). Our experiment revealed that salt delayed hatching and increased deformity in spotted salamander hatchlings. Additionally, salt reduced salamander survivorship by 62% and frog survivorship by 30%. Wood frog tadpoles and road salt interacted to diminish salamander survivorship a further 80% beyond salt alone, likely through an increase in interspecific competition. Road salt increased the larval period of salamanders and decreased the proportion metamorphosed by the end of the experiment. Dragonfly larvae reduced salamander survivorship by 35%, whereas they increased wood frog tadpole development rates. Dragonfly larvae and salt interacted to alter tadpole denticle size, with salt negating the impact of dragonfly larvae. Thus, we found that salt interfered with aquatic predatory chemical cues. Overall, the results of this study suggest that management strategies should be implemented in order to reduce the impact of road salts on freshwater aquatic ecosystems.


Environmental Pollution





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