Road salt and organic additives affect mosquito growth and survival: an emerging problem in wetlands

Matthew S. Schuler, Rick A. Relyea

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


The global increase in the application rate of road salts such as sodium chloride (NaCl) has led to concern about their negative effects on roadside habitats and freshwater ecosystems. To reduce the application rate of NaCl and minimize the ecological effects of road salts, transportation agencies are continuously seeking alternative salts such as magnesium chloride (MgCl2) and organic additives such as beet juice and distillation byproducts. Yet, there is remarkably little information about how these road salt alternatives and additives affect aquatic communities, including their effects on mosquito populations. Nonetheless, understanding how anthropogenic factors such as road salts and salt additives affect mosquito populations could help minimize threats to human health, especially in urban environments. We used outdoor, freshwater mesocosms to experimentally investigate how the road salt MgCl2 and two organic additives affect mosquito Culex restuans survival and emergence. Additionally, we measured changes to abiotic aspects of the environment that could affect mosquito larvae during development. We found that increased concentrations of MgCl2 reduced mosquito survival while organic additives increased food resources that, in turn, reduced the average time to emergence for mosquitoes. Additionally, the organic additives reduced dissolved oxygen (DO) to hypoxic levels, which might negatively affect mosquito predators such as fish. In the absence of toxic concentrations of MgCl2 or other salts, reduced predation coupled with the faster emergence times, means that organic additives, might increase mosquito population size. More comprehensive studies of multi-trophic interactions in freshwater ecosystems should be conducted before agencies promote the application of alternative road salts and road salt additives.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)866-874
Number of pages9
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2018


  • GeoMelt
  • contaminants
  • ecotoxicology
  • experimental wetlands
  • magic salt
  • phytoplankton
  • zooplankton


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