Road Salt and Urban Forestry

Sodium Chloride, the most predominant salt used on streets for melting snow and ice, is the lubricant of the modern lifestyle in northern climates during wintry weather conditions. These same streets and parking lots are also the battleground where urban foresters strive to build green infrastructure for canopy coverage, stormwater management and aesthetics.

Green Stormwater Infrastructures are particularly prone to salt damages because it is designed to take the first flush of stormwater runoff from the streets, parking lots and sidewalks where salt usage is by truck loads. It is all too common to observe the damages and casualties on roadsides in spring, when plants start to display the impacts of salt through discoloration and canopy loss. At this stage, it is often too late to remedy and correct the damaged plants.

The urban forestry community is aware of the issue. Many of these professionals have snow removal as part of their responsibility requiring salts as part of standard operating procedures. But during wintry weather, there is little option to avoid salt usage. We will use case studies in Baltimore MD and controlled environment studies in Richmond VA to demonstrate a unique protocol of protecting plants from salt damages.

Learning Objectives:

  1. Determine the impacts road salt has on the ecosystem and environment.
  2. Learn and discuss how salt affects the health of roadside plants and in the green stormwater infrastructure.
  3. Review and recommend methods to mitigate this problem.
  4. Review case studies on road salt mitigation.

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