Roadside ditches can improve stormwater quality

Corianne Tatariw, postdoctoral researcher, and Behzad Mortazavi, professor, recently published “Ditching Nutrients: Roadside Drainage Networks are Hotspots for Microbial Nitrogen Removal” in JGR: Biogeosciences. Working with Olivia Mason, an associate professor at Florida State University, they measured the nitrogen removal potential and microbial community structure of roadside ditches in forested, urban, and agricultural areas surrounding Mobile Bay. They found that ditches had a high capacity for removing nitrate, a nutrient that can cause harmful algal blooms in coastal waters, in all three land use types. Additionally, they found that microbial taxa associated with nitrogen cycling were indicators for ditches in more human-influenced (i.e., urban and agricultural) areas. These findings are significant because they demonstrate that roadside drainage networks may play an important role in improving water quality by promoting microbial nitrogen removal. This work was also the focus of a recent Research Spotlight in EOS.