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  1. Freshwater salinization syndrome (FSS) refers to the suite of interactive effects of salt ions on degradation of physical, biological,and social systems. Best management practices (BMPs), which are methods to effectively reduce runoff and nonpoint source pollution (stormwater, nutrients, sediments), do not typically consider management of salt pollution. We investigate impacts of FSS on mobilization of salts, nutrients, and metals in urban streams and storm water BMPs by analyzing original data on concentrations and fluxes of salts, nutrients, and metals from 7 urban watersheds in the Mid-Atlantic USA and synthesizing literature data. We also explore future critical research needs through a survey of practitioners and scientists. Our original data show 1) sharp pulses in concentrations of salt ions and metals in urban streams directly following both road salt events and stream restoration construction (e.g.,similar to the way concentrations increase during other soil disturbance activities); 2) sharp declines in pH (acidification) in response to road salt applications because of mobilization of H+ from soil exchange sites by Na+; 3) sharp increases inorganic matter from microbial and algal sources (based on fluorescence spectroscopy) in response to road salt applications, likely because of lysing cells and changes insolubility; 4) substantial retention (~30–40%) of Na+more »in stormwater BMP sediments and floodplains in response to salinization; 5) increased ion exchange and mobilization of diverse salt ions (Na+, Ca2+, K+, Mg2+), nutrients(N, P), and trace metals(Cu, Sr) from stormwater BMPs and restored streams in response to FSS; 6) downstream increasing loads ofCl–, SO42–, Br–, F–,andI–along flowpaths through urbanstreams and P release from urban stormwater BMPs in response to salinization; and 7)a substantial annual reduction (>50%) in Na+concentrations in an urban stream when road salt applications were dramatically reduced, which suggests potential for ecosystem recovery. We compare our original results with published metrics of contaminant retention and release across a broad range of stormwater BMPs from North America and Europe.Overall, urban streams and stormwater BMPs consistently retain Na+ and Cl–but mobilize multiple contaminants based on salt types and salinity levels. Finally, we present our top 10 research questions regarding FSS impacts on urban streams and stormwater BMPs. Reducing diverse chemical cocktails of contaminants mobilized by freshwater salinization is a priority for effectively and holistically restoring urban waters.« less
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available June 27, 2023
  2. Abstract

    Stream restoration is a popular approach for managing nitrogen (N) in degraded, flashy urban streams. Here, we investigated the long-term effects of stream restoration involving floodplain reconnection on riparian and in-stream N transport and transformation in an urban stream in the Chesapeake Bay watershed. We examined relationships between hydrology, chemistry, and biology using a Before/After-Control/Impact (BACI) study design to determine how hydrologic flashiness, nitrate (NO3) concentrations (mg/L), and N flux, both NO3and total N (kg/yr), changed after the restoration and floodplain hydrologic reconnection to its stream channel. We examined two independent surface water and groundwater data sets (EPA and USGS) collected from 2002–2012 at our study sites in the Minebank Run watershed. Restoration was completed during 2004 and 2005. Afterward, the monthly hydrologic flashiness index, based on mean monthly discharge, decreased over time from 2002 and 2008. However, from 2008–2012 hydrologic flashiness returned to pre-restoration levels. Based on the EPA data set, NO3concentration in groundwater and surface water was significantly less after restoration while the control site showed no change. DOC and NO3were negatively related before and after restoration suggesting C limitation of N transformations. Long-term trends in surface water NO3concentrations based on USGS surface water data showed downwardmore »trends after restoration at both the restored and control sites, whereas specific conductance showed no trend. Comparisons of NO3concentrations with Clconcentrations and specific conductance in both ground and surface waters suggested that NO3reduction after restoration was not due to dilution or load reductions from the watershed. Modeled NO3flux decreased post restoration over time but the rate of decrease was reduced likely due to failure of restoration features that facilitated N transformations. Groundwater NO3concentrations varied among stream features suggesting that some engineered features may be functionally better at creating optimal conditions for N retention. However, some engineered features eroded and failed post restoration thereby reducing efficacy of the stream restoration to reduce flashiness and NO3flux. N management via stream restoration will be most effective where flashiness can be reduced and DOC made available for denitrifiers. Stream restoration may be an important component of holistic watershed management including stormwater management and nutrient source control if stream restoration and floodplain reconnection can be done in a manner to resist the erosive effects of large storm events that can degrade streams to pre-restoration conditions. Long-term evolution of water quality functions in response to degradation of restored stream channels and floodplains from urban stressors and storms over time warrants further study, however.

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  3. Abstract

    Increasing trends in base cations, pH, and salinity of freshwaters have been documented in US streams over 50 years. These patterns, collectively known as freshwater salinization syndrome (FSS), are driven by multiple processes, including applications of road salt and human-accelerated weathering of impervious surfaces, reductions in acid rain, and other anthropogenic legacies of change. FSS mobilizes chemical cocktails of distinct elemental mixtures via ion exchange, and other biogeochemical processes. We analyzed impacts of FSS on streamwater chemistry across five urban watersheds in the Baltimore-Washington, USA metropolitan region. Through combined grab-sampling and high-frequency monitoring by USGS sensors, regression relationships were developed among specific conductance and major ion and trace metal concentrations. These linear relationships were statistically significant in most of the urban streams (e.g.R2= 0.62 and 0.43 for Mn and Cu, respectively), and showed that specific conductance could be used as a proxy to predict concentrations of major ions and trace metals. Major ions and trace metals analyzed via linear regression and principal component analysis showed co-mobilization (i.e. correlations among combinations of specific conductance (SC), Mn, Cu, Sr2+, and all base cations during certain times of year and hydrologic conditions). Co-mobilization of metals and base cations was strongest during peakmore »snow events but could continue over 24 h after SC peaked, suggesting ongoing cation exchange in soils and stream sediments. Mn and Cu concentrations predicted from SC as a proxy indicated acceptable goodness of fit for predictedvs.observed values (Nash–Sutcliffe efficiency > 0.28). Metals concentrations remained elevated for days after SC decreased following snowstorms, suggesting lag times and continued mobilization after road salt use. High-frequency sensor monitoring and proxies associated with FSS may help better predict contaminant pulses and contaminant exceedances in response to salinization and impacts on aquatic life, infrastructure, and drinking water.

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  4. Factors driving freshwater salinization syndrome (FSS) influence the severity of impacts and chances for recovery. We hypothesize that spread of FSS across ecosystems is a function of interactions among five state factors: human activities, geology, flowpaths, climate, and time. (1) Human activities drive pulsed or chronic inputs of salt ions and mobilization of chemical contaminants. (2) Geology drives rates of erosion, weathering, ion exchange, and acidification-alkalinization. (3) Flowpaths drive salinization and contaminant mobilization along hydrologic cycles. (4) Climate drives rising water temperatures, salt stress, and evaporative concentration of ions and saltwater intrusion. (5) Time influences consequences, thresholds, and potentials for ecosystem recovery. We hypothesize that state factors advance FSS in distinct stages, which eventually contribute to failures in systems-level functions (supporting drinking water, crops, biodiversity, infrastructure, etc.). We present future research directions for protecting freshwaters at risk based on five state factors and stages from diagnosis to prognosis to cure.
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available March 16, 2023