Tracking evolution of urban biogeochemical cycles: salinization of fresh water

Monday, 15 December 2014
Sujay Kaushal1, William H McDowell2, Wilfred M Wollheim3, Shuiwang Duan1, Julia K Gorman1, Shahan Haq1, Steven Hohman1, Rose Marie Smith4 and Paul M Mayer5, (1)University of Maryland, College Park, MD, United States, (2)University of New Hampshire, Durham, NH, United States, (3)Univ New Hampshire, Durham, NH, United States, (4)University of Maryland College Park, College Park, MD, United States, (5)Environmental Protection Agency Corvallis, Corvallis, OR, United States
The built environment often changes quickly in response to human activities, thus contributing to an evolution of stream chemistry over time. Depending upon development and management strategies, these changes can result in pulses and/or long-term trends. Here, we explore patterns of evolving salinization of fresh water over time, and we evaluate the potential water quality implications of fresh water salinization. We show that there has been global salinization of freshwater across urbanizing landscapes over a century. We also show that human-accelerated weathering in watersheds and river alkalinization can further influence regional rates of salinization (in addition to anthropogenic sources such as road salts, sewage leaks, etc.). Finally, we investigate how salinization of fresh water can impact stream sediment fluxes of carbon, nutrients, and sulfate in watersheds across a land use gradient at the Baltimore Long-Term Ecological Research (LTER) site. The impacts of salinization on mobilization and uptake of carbon, nutrients, and sulfate in streams warrant further consideration in water quality management strategies. Overall, we propose that salinization can be a "universal tracer" of watershed urbanization globally with major regional consequences for drinking water and evolution of biogeochemical cycles in freshwater ecosystems.