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Environ Toxicol Chem. 2015 Oct;34(10):2417-24. doi: 10.1002/etc.3082. Epub 2015 Sep 11.

Legacy of road salt: Apparent positive larval effects counteracted by negative postmetamorphic effects in wood frogs.

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Department of Biology, Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, Ohio, USA.
Natural Resource Division, Cleveland Metroparks, Parma, Ohio, USA.


Road salt runoff has potentially large effects on wetland communities, but is typically investigated in short-term laboratory trials. The authors investigated effects of road salt contamination on wood frogs (Rana sylvatica) by combining a field survey with 2 separate experiments. The field survey tested whether wood frog larval traits were associated with road salt contamination in natural wetlands. As conductivity increased, wood frog larvae were less abundant, but those found were larger. In the first experiment of the present study, the authors raised larvae in outdoor artificial ponds under 4 salt concentrations and measured larval vital rates, algal biomass, and zooplankton abundance. Salt significantly increased larval growth, algal biomass, and decreased zooplankton abundance. In the second experiment, the authors raised larvae to metamorphosis in the presence and absence of salt contamination and followed resulting juvenile frogs in terrestrial pens at high and low densities. Exposure to road salt as larvae caused juvenile frogs to have greater mortality in low-density terrestrial environments, possibly because of altered energy allocation, changes in behavior, or reduced immune defenses. The present study suggests that low concentrations of road salt can have positive effects on larval growth yet negative effects on juvenile survival. These results emphasize the importance of testing for effects of contaminants acting through food webs and across multiple life stages as well as the potential for population-level consequences in natural environments.


Amphibians; Carryover effect; Contaminants; Food web; Road salt

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