Freshwater salinization syndrome limits management efforts to improve water quality


Freshwater Salinization Syndrome (FSS) refers to groups of biological, physical, and chemical impacts which commonly occur together in response to salinization. FSS can be assessed by the mobilization of chemical mixtures, termed “chemical cocktails”, in watersheds. Currently, we do not know if salinization and mobilization of chemical cocktails along streams can be mitigated or reversed using restoration and conservation strategies. We investigated 1) the formation of chemical cocktails temporally and spatially along streams experiencing different levels of restoration and riparian forest conservation and 2) the potential for attenuation of chemical cocktails and salt ions along flowpaths through conservation and restoration areas. We monitored high-frequency temporal and longitudinal changes in streamwater chemistry in response to different pollution events (i.e., road salt, stormwater runoff, wastewater effluent, and baseflow conditions) and several types of watershed management or conservation efforts in six urban watersheds in the Chesapeake Bay watershed. Principal component analysis (PCA) indicates that chemical cocktails which formed along flowpaths (i.e., permanent reaches of a stream) varied due to pollution events. In response to winter road salt applications, the chemical cocktails were enriched in salts and metals (e.g., Na+, Mn, and Cu). During most baseflow and stormflow conditions, chemical cocktails were less enriched in salt ions and trace metals. Downstream attenuation of salt ions occurred during baseflow and stormflow conditions along flowpaths through regional parks, stream-floodplain restorations, and a national park. Conversely, chemical mixtures of salt ions and metals, which formed in response to multiple road salt applications or prolonged road salt exposure, did not show patterns of rapid attenuation downstream. Multiple linear regression was used to investigate variables that influence changes in chemical cocktails along flowpaths. Attenuation and dilution of salt ions and chemical cocktails along stream flowpaths was significantly related to riparian forest buffer width, types of salt pollution, and distance downstream. Although salt ions and chemical cocktails can be attenuated and diluted in response to conservation and restoration efforts at lower concentration ranges, there can be limitations in attenuation during road salt events, particularly if storm drains bypass riparian buffers.

freshwater salinization, chemical cocktails, urban streams pollution, riparian buffer, temporal monitoring, longitudinal monitoring, restoration