, Research Paper
The Damaging Effects of Acid Rain
Modern society is becoming overwhelmed with great amounts of pollution from cars, factories and an overabundance of garbage. The immense amounts of sulphur dioxide emitted into the air causes high levels of acid in the atmosphere. When this sulphuric acid is absorbed into moisture in the air, poignant rainfalls can be damaging to the external environment. Acid rain is destroying the world=s lakes, air and ecosystem.
Acid rain is killing lakes and decreasing the number of inhabitants in these fresh water bodies. Acid rain causes an ample deduction in the pH levels in the water. At a neutral level the pH in water should be close to seven, yet in these acidic water bodies the pH levels can be as low as four. These pH levels of four contain more than ten percent acids than that of normal rain and one thousand times more acid than neutral water. Each decade the pH levels of lakes around Ontario have become ten times more acidic. The high acid levels contained in lakes also causes a decrease in the number of fish dwelling in these lakes. Also Aacid produces chemical changes in the blood of the fish, and their basic body metabolism is altered@ (Howard & Perley, 1980, p. 24), and can cause deformities in these inhabitants. They have twisted and arched backbones, flattened heads and strangely curved tails. In pH levels of four there is little left in the lakes besides rock bass, pumpkinseed and lake herring. Affected fish are also in danger of becoming sterile, which would put the species at risk of becoming extinct. As with sulphur dioxide in rain, mercury is also discharged into the water. There is a direct connection between the mercury rich lakes as there is with those with high acidic levels. This metal becomes concentrated in the blood and tissues of fish. Acid rain causes traumatic effects in natural lakes and rivers.
Acid rain causes air quality to deteriorate. As in water, acid rain causes the pH levels in the air to decrease. The sulphur dioxide, which diffuses into the air, mixes with moisture causing the pH levels to drop from the normal level. Again, the normal level is somewhere around seven, yet in some acidic air masses the levels can be as low as three. These lowered pH levels form a photochemical smog in the atmosphere. In the air Anitrogen oxides react with ozone and some hydrocarbons in the presence of sunlight to form photochemical smog, the kind of yellow-grey haze which it literally alive and growing in stagnant air masses@ (Howard & Perley, 1980, p. 44). This smog carries serious risk for respiratory disease and crop damage. The photochemical smog is also causing the ozone layer to disintegrate. The ozone layer is becoming a part of this smog, which is causing holes in it. An inordinate amount of sulphur dioxide is let into the air, more than can be neutralized by nutrients in the air. Decrease in pH levels, photochemical smog and depletion of the ozone layer are some effects of acid rain in the air.
The ecosystem is slowly eroding due to the increased amounts of acid in the soil. Acid in the soil in causing the carbon dioxide respiration process to decelerate. In order for plants to go through photosynthesis, they need carbon dioxide. When acid in the soil causing this soil respiration to slow down, in turn it causes the photosynthesis process to slow down. The soil also erodes when the pH levels drop. The acidic levels of the soil cause nutrients in the soils such as aluminum to break apart and the soil to erode. Soil erosion also causes a lower production of plants in the ecosystem. In the soil a process of decay Acalled oligotrophication, means that fewer of the ions of acid are neutralized by the depleted biological community so the acid can cause further degeneration of natural processes, which in turn are less capable of combating the acid, and so on, in an accelerating process@ (Howard & Perley, 1980, p. 32). Disruption in the life span of trees and plants is also another effect of acid rain. The acid rain corrodes the thin, waxy layer, which coats and protects the leaves letting the acid suffocate the leaves. This can cause an interference in the plants metabolism and photosynthesis may be altered meaning the leaves cannot produce and efficient amount of food which may result in death of the plant. Acid may obtrude fertilization , stunt or kill the growth of seeds and make them sterile. A second generation would be in danger of not being produced causing deforestation. Naturally the reduction of plants is causing the biological food chain to weaken. As smaller animals and insects feed on these plants lose their food supply, they may also ensue death. In effect the animals which feed off of these animals also ensue a decrease in their supply. In turn humans may become starved if the acid rain effects increase. Acid rain causes death of soil, plants and animals, effecting the ecosystem.
Acid rain is becoming a major problem in our environment today. It is killing our fresh water lakes and it=s occupants. Also the quality of air is depleting, increasing the amount of smog and pollution in our atmosphere. Once the acid is absorbed in the soil, this puts the ecosystem in jeopardy of extinction. This is killing plants, animal, and soil, which is the basis of our existence. If this acid rain problem is not dealt with urgently, the natural world may in hazard of demise.