The effects of motorway runoff on freshwater ecosystems: 1. Field study

Lorraine Maltby, David M. Forrow, Alistair B.A. Boxall, Peter Calow, Clifford I. Betton

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    145 Scopus citations


    The effects of motorway runoff on the water quality, sediment quality, and biota of small streams were investigated over a 12‐month period. Downstream of motorway runoff discharges there was an increase in the sediment concentrations of total hydrocarbons, aromatic hydrocarbons, and heavy metals and an increase in the water concentrations of heavy metals and selected anions. Hydrocarbon contamination of sediments was positively correlated with potential contaminant loading (i.e., length of road drained/stream size). The greatest effect was observed at Pigeon Bridge Brook, a small stream receiving drainage from a 1,500‐m stretch of the Ml motorway. The dominant PAHs in contaminated sediment at this site were phenanthrene, pyrene, and fluoranthene, whereas the dominant metals were zinc, cadmium, chromium, and lead. Differences between the station upstream and downstream of discharges in the diversity and composition of the macroinvertebrate assemblages were detected in four out of the seven streams surveyed. However, there was no evidence of an effect on either the diversity or abundance of epilithic algae. The diversity of the aquatic hyphomycete assemblage was only affected at the most impacted site. Reductions in macroinvertebrate diversity were associated with reductions in the processing of leaf litter and a change from an assemblage based on benthic algae and coarse particulate organic matter to one dependent upon fine particulate organic matter.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)1079-1092
    Number of pages14
    JournalEnvironmental Toxicology and Chemistry
    Issue number6
    StatePublished - Jun 1995


    • Benthic communities
    • Hydrocarbons
    • Road runoff
    • Sediment contamination


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