For years ever since most of the world has been industrialized, the effects of pollution have plagued nations alike. Acid rain is one of the largest contributors to this industrialized form of pollution. Throughout this report an explanation of the devastating effects to the environment caused by acid rain will be given along with what is being done to stop it.
Acid rain is made when pollutants arise from the use of coal in the production of electricity, from base- metal smelting and from fuel combustion in vehicles. Once the sulfur and nitrogen oxides from these man made causes are released into the air they are caught by wind currents and are blown hundreds of miles away. The gas pollutants drift along with clouds until the rain eventually converts the sulfuric dioxide into sulfuric acid, and the nitrogen oxide into nitric acid. The newly transformed acid rain, acid snow or fog, falls to the earth where the effects on aquatic habitats, humans, animals, trees, crops, and other forms of plant life are devastating.
When acid rain comes in contact with aquatic ecosystems the chemistry of the effects can be extremely complex. If one species or group of species changes or dies out in response to the acid rain, then the whole entire body of water, especially in lakes, is affected through the predator- prey relationship of the food web. In some places where the acid deposition falls, natural substances absorb and neutralize the acid but in most places they build up and the water becomes as sour as lemon juice. In these instances the chance of a food web being disrupted are more likely to happen. When the acidity of the water is around the ph level of 6.0 fish cannot lay eggs. When they can’t reproduce and the acidity level grows then the fish out, and when in lakes are extremely difficult to be replaced. Around this acidity level plants also die out and are poisoned. Insects no longer have a food source and soon they are gone. The water fowl and other birds in the area that fed on fish and insects no longer have a food source and they are the next to go. As the whole entire food web come toppling down the aquatic ecosystems become quiet; quiet as a grave.
Acid rain also effects crops and other plant life. Surprisingly though acid rain can actually help out some crops such as strawberries, corn, and tomatoes. Other crops like soybeans can be affected for the worse. When they are watered with acid rain the size and number of the seeds and pods on the plants can cut in half or be totally wiped out. The effects on other terrestrial plant life can be also very destructive. It accelerates soil weathering and removal of nutrients along with slowing down or stopping plant germination or reproduction. The waxy surface protecting the plants leaves can be altered, drastically lowering the plants disease resistance. Also toxic elements such as aluminum can be made more soluble making the uptake of nutrients of plants much more difficult.
Many of the trees throughout the world are also greatly affected. In the green mountains of Vermont, some scientists think that as much as thirty percent of forests have died in the past twenty years because acid rain. Another large study has been conducted in Northern Europe. In 1984, for example, reports said that more than half of the trees in Germany’s Black Forests had been severely damaged by acid rain. Acid rain has also struck, in a major way, the northeastern past of the U.S. and Canada.
Besides for destroying most of our crops, acid rain effects humans in many other ways. The air we breathe, when coming in contact with acid deposition, can pollute our lungs as well as the water we drink. What is really being done to stop this killer? Industrial emissions have been mainly to blame for the acid rain. To start, industries first took it upon themselves to start further studies on the problem, and because of the cost of pollution our government began to support them. In 1988 the U.S. , along with 24 other nations, made a protocol, freezing the rate of nitrogen oxide emissions, as part of United Nations- Sponsored long-range Transboundry Air Pollution Agreement. The 1990 amendments to the Clean Air Act of 1967 put in place regulations to reduce the release of sulfur dioxide from power plants to 10 million tons per year by January 1, 2000.
With our present and future efforts to make our plant life, aquatic ecosystems, and humans safe from this killer, we will hopefully find a way to control or diminish acid rain.
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