‘De-ice roads with saw­dust to save frogs’

Call to ditch salt for na­ture’s sake

Scottish Daily Mail - - Life - By Richard Mars­den

‘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

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