Are calcareous soil ecosystems and associated drainage waters less susceptible to damage from winter road salting than acidic soil ecosystems?

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JournalChemistry and Ecology
DatePublished - Feb 2008
Issue number1
Number of pages13
Pages (from-to)1-13
Original languageEnglish


Previous studies of upland roadside soils in Cumbria, that would normally be naturally acidic, have highlighted that (a) runoff from roads subjected to long-term road salting can dramatically raise soil pH down slope in upland areas; (b) the soil pH increase dramatically changes N cycling in soils down slope, increasing mineralisation of organic matter, ammonification, ammonium leaching down slope and nitrification and nitrate leaching; (c) the increase in nitrification substantially increases nitrate leaching to down-slope rivers, and this is readily detectable in field studies; and (d) loss of soil organic matter over decades of salting is so great that organic matter is no longer substantially solubilised by high salt concentrations found in soil solution below road drains. This paper tests and supports the hypothesis that such effects are minimal for more calcareous soil ecosystems. It examines the soil and soil solution chemistry on another Cumbrian upland highway, the A686 near Leadgate, Alston. Sodium % of soil CEC values for soil transects affected by spray containing road salt are similar at both the A6 and A686 sites. However, spatial trends in calcium, magnesium, ammonium, and nitrate concentrations as well as pH differ, as a direct result of the higher weathering rate of parent material and possibly also the presence of limestone walls above both spray-affected and control transects at the A686 site.

Bibliographical note

© Taylor and Francis. This is an author produced version of a paper published in Chemistry and Ecology. Available from January 2009 in accordance with the publisher's embargo requirement.

    Research areas

  • road salt, sodium, chloride, base cations, weathering rate, N cycling, DEICING-SALTS, PLANTS, IMPACT, RIVER

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