Improving the performance of roadside vegetation.
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Improving the performance of roadside vegetation.

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  • English

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      Final; 7/7/08 to 12/31/2010.
    • NTL Classification:
      NTL-ENERGY AND ENVIRONMENT-Environment Impacts
    • Abstract:
      Vegetation along roadways can be aesthetically pleasing and helps to stabilize the soil, which reduces wind-blown soil and soil erosion. While products containing chloride salts have proven to be very effective in helping to provide safe road surfaces, the accumulation of these products in roadside soils may create conditions unsuitable for the growth of some plant species. The purpose of this study was to determine the impact of a magnesium chloride–based deicer, a sodium chloride-based deicer, and the major salts contained in these deicers on seed germination and seedling growth and development of fifteen species of grasses and forbs native to Colorado. Seven of the fifteen species performed well at the low and medium concentrations of the salts and solutions; these are plants that can likely germinate in roadside areas. An increase in the concentration of chloride or sodium ions, or both, was related to a greater impact on the proportions of normal and abnormal seeds and seedlings. A few species were more negatively impacted by a particular salt type or formulation. Eight of the fifteen species tested had too few plant counts at either field site or in different soils and treatments to conduct individual data analysis on the impact of salt treatments. Salt treatments had no impact on the average numbers of plants for the remaining seven species, except the two fescue species, which were negatively impacted by high concentrations of salt treatments in topsoil. In general, all species had more plants and greater growth on topsoil than sand, and sand was better than gravel. The salt concentrations in the field plantings were diluted by precipitation during the study so the impacts were probably less than what would be seen with consistently high concentrations. Implementation: Using species with the highest germination rate provides the best opportunity for establishing plants along highways treated with deicing products. If possible, planting should be done in the fall and the soil should be amended to promote plant growth. Future studies should quantify conditions of vegetation along highways so that spatial relationships of highway maintenance, site factors, vegetation types, and metrological factors can be assessed.
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