Total Suspended Sediment and Chloride in the Upper South Fork of the New River: Implications for Watershed Health and Aquatic Life

Authors: James Zebulon Sanders*, Appalachian State University, Derek Martin, Appalachian State University
Topics: Physical Geography, Geomorphology
Keywords: Appalachian Mountains, Headwater Streams, Pollutant Transport, Sediment, Chloride, Geomorphology, Watershed Science
Session Type: Poster
Day: 4/12/2018
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:40 AM
Room: Napoleon Foyer/Common St. Corridor, Sheraton, 3rd Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

The health of water resources is critical in maintaining the ecological integrity of watershed ecosystems and in providing clean water for human use, yet headwater streams and ecosystems in the United States are under increasing strain from anthropogenic activity. In the Upper South Fork of the New River Basin (USF-NRB) located in the Appalachian Mountains of North Carolina, Total Suspended Solids (TSS) and Chloride (Cl-), in the form of de-icing salt, are two constituents of regional concern. Excessive concentrations of TSS pose risks to aquatic life and ecosystems through mechanisms of habitat destruction, degradation of water clarity and purity, and through the transport of pollutants and toxins. Concentrations of Cl- at or exceeding chronic or acute toxicity levels threaten the biodiversity of aquatic life in the USF-NRB. This research investigates seasonal TSS and Cl- trends in streams of the Upper South Fork of the New River Basin, North Carolina. Preliminary findings suggest that Cl- concentrations are higher during the winter months in association with road salt application, and TSS concentrations are higher during periods of infrequent yet intense precipitation. Additionally, both display hysteretic properties and are associated with land use/land cover. These water quality constituents pose a disproportionate risk in USF-NRB headwater sub-basins relative to other regions of the southeastern US. Results from this study will provide a baseline for monitoring water quality in the USF-NRB, and will contribute to the on-going discourse related to the use of deicing salts and urban development in these southeastern, mountain headwater river systems.

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