Assessing the Use of Willow Shrub Species on Living Snow Fence Designs to Manage the Damaging Effects of Salt

Principal Investigator:

Diomy Zamora, Associate Professor, UM Extension


  • Dean Current, Research Associate and Director, Forest Resources
  • Gary Wyatt, Extension Educator, UM Extension

Project Summary:

Road deicing salt, primarily sodium chloride (NaCl), is used to clear roads of snow and ice for motorist safety and mobility during adverse winter driving conditions. When snow and ice melts, the salt goes with it, washing into roadside ditches that can carry it into the watershed. Wind currents can also carry salt off the travel lanes by vehicles. Chloride from the salt affects water quality, and when concentrations are high enough can harm fish and plant life. According to the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, Minnesota chloride concentrations and water bodies listed as impaired from chloride is on an upward trend. Increases in sodium and chloride can also increase the mobility of metals located in the soils along major highways. Roadside landscape vegetation treatments can serve as a natural barrier that can trap blowing snow, decreasing the amount of salt needed to regain bare pavement and thus reducing the amount of salt entering the watershed. The overall objective of this study is to assess the potential of both native and hybrid willow shrubs for use as living snow fence systems. The ultimate outcome of this study is the development of roadside planting recommendations using willow shrubs as living snow fences that can control the blowing and drifting of snow, thereby reducing application of salt on roadways. Reduction of the frequency and amount of salt applied during winter can reduce the harmful effects of salt entering waterways.


Project Details:

  • Start date: 05/2013
  • Project Status: Completed
  • Research Area: Environment and Energy
  • Topics: Snow and Ice Control