‘De-ice roads with sawdust to save frogs’
Call to ditch salt for nature’s sake
‘Scurvy grass and bladder campion’
SAWDuST should be used to de-ice roads instead of rock salt to avoid harming wildlife, councils have been told.
Ecology expert Dr Dan Forman said salt levels in ditches and pools used by frogs and toads by the side of roads can be harmful to amphibians.
Increased salinity in the water has also led plants usually seen on the coast to grow inland.
Dr Forman said: ‘Amphibian populations are declining, particularly in ditch systems and on the edge of roads. Sites can become so heavily laden with salt that the amphibians are unable to spawn, and either leave or die.’
He told the BBC that the effect is particularly bad because amphibians in the west of England and Wales ‘come out much, much earlier and start spawning around January, February or March’.
The Swansea university lecturer said: ‘It does get cold and can snow at that time of year so gritters can be out in force. All of our amphibians aren’t doing particularly well and the use of rock salt is a contributing factor.’
Dr Forman said changes to the salinity of the water the creatures inhabit can have a ‘drastic effect on their ability to survive’, as amphibians maintain their chemical balance through their skin. He said he has seen types of plants which normally exist by the coast growing far inland – which he believes is due to the soil becoming salty. Dr
Forman added: ‘You are seeing coastal plants growing on road verges in mid-Wales.
‘For example, Danish scurvy grass, wild carrot, and bladder campion would traditionally be found on the cliffs and coastline of Wales.’ He called for local councils, which spend millions of pounds gritting roads in winter, to ‘look at alternatives’ to traditional rock salt, which usually comes from mines in Cheshire and Northern Ireland.
Dr Forman said: ‘There are alternatives to rock salt.
‘There is a move now to use sawdust, sand and other material which can be mixed with rock salt, reducing the amount of salt used. We need to look at these alternatives.’
His comments come in the wake of research by Cardiff scientist Dr Mark Cuthbert, who found evidence of salt water running off roads can contaminate water supplies.
Dilwyn Jones, of the Welsh Local Government Association, said he accepted rock salt ‘can have negative effects on aquatic ecosystems’, and that ‘at high concentrations, salt can be fatal to some aquatic animals’.
However, Mr Jones stressed: ‘Snow and rain dilute the effect and it is generally considered to be an acceptable and cost-effective way of keeping roads safe in icy and wintry conditions.’ r.mars[email protected]lymail.co.uk