• Effects of road salt on microbial communities: Halophiles as biomarkers of road salt pollution

      Pecher, W.T.; DasSarma, P.; Ekulona, F.; DasSarma, S.; Al Madadha, M.W. (Public Library of Science, 2019)
      Increased use of salting to de-ice roadways, especially in urban areas, is leading to elevated salinity levels in soil as well as surface- and ground water. This salt pollution may cause long-term ecological changes to soil and aquatic microbial communities. In this study, we examined the impact on microbial communities in soils exposed to urban road salt runoff using both culturing and 16S amplicon sequencing. Both methods showed an increase in halophilic Bacteria and Archaea in samples from road salt-exposed areas and suggested that halophiles are becoming persistent members of microbial communities in urban, road salt-impacted soils. Since salt is a pollutant that can accumulate in soils over time, it is critical to begin assessing its impact on the environment immediately. Toward this goal, we have developed a facile semi-quantitative assay utilizing halophilic microbes as biomarkers to evaluate on-going salt pollution of soils. Copyright 2019 Pecher et al.