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The Effects of Acid Rain on Ecosystems
An ecosystem is a community of plants, animals and other organisms along with their environment including the air, water and soil. Everything in an ecosystem is connected. If something harms one part of an ecosystem – one species of plant or animal, the soil or the water – it can have an impact on everything else.
Effects of Acid Rain on Fish and Wildlife
The ecological effects of acid rain are most clearly seen in aquatic environments, such as streams, lakes, and marshes where it can be harmful to fish and other wildlife. As it flows through the soil, acidic rain water can leach aluminum from soil clay particles and then flow into streams and lakes. The more acid that is introduced to the ecosystem, the more aluminum is released.
Some types of plants and animals are able to tolerate acidic waters and moderate amounts of aluminum. Others, however, are acid-sensitive and will be lost as the pH declines. Generally, the young of most species are more sensitive to environmental conditions than adults. At pH 5, most fish eggs cannot hatch. At lower pH levels, some adult fish die. Some acidic lakes have no fish. Even if a species of fish or animal can tolerate moderately acidic water, the animals or plants it eats might not. For example, frogs have a critical pH around 4, but the mayflies they eat are more sensitive and may not survive pH below 5.5.
Effects of Acid Rain on Plants and Trees
Dead or dying trees are a common sight in areas effected by acid rain. Acid rain leaches aluminum from the soil. That aluminum may be harmful to plants as well as animals. Acid rain also removes minerals and nutrients from the soil that trees need to grow.
At high elevations, acidic fog and clouds might strip nutrients from trees’ foliage, leaving them with brown or dead leaves and needles. The trees are then less able to absorb sunlight, which makes them weak and less able to withstand freezing temperatures.
Many forests, streams, and lakes that experience acid rain don’t suffer effects because the soil in those areas can buffer the acid rain by neutralizing the acidity in the rainwater flowing through it. This capacity depends on the thickness and composition of the soil and the type of bedrock underneath it. In areas such as mountainous parts of the Northeast United States, the soil is thin and lacks the ability to adequately neutralize the acid in the rain water. As a result, these areas are particularly vulnerable and the acid and aluminum can accumulate in the soil, streams, or lakes.
Melting snow and heavy rain downpours can result in what is known as episodic acidification. Lakes that do not normally have a high level of acidity may temporarily experience effects of acid rain when the melting snow or downpour brings greater amounts of acidic deposition and the soil can’t buffer it. This short duration of higher acidity (i.e., lower pH) can result in a short-term stress on the ecosystem where a variety of organisms or species may be injured or killed.
It’s not just the acidity of acid rain that can cause problems. Acid rain also contains nitrogen, and this can have an impact on some ecosystems. For example, nitrogen pollution in our coastal waters is partially responsible for declining fish and shellfish populations in some areas. In addition to agriculture and wastewater, much of the nitrogen produced by human activity that reaches coastal waters comes from the atmosphere.
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Effects of Acid Rain on Materials
Not all acidic deposition is wet. Sometimes dust particles can become acidic as well, and this is called dry deposition. When acid rain and dry acidic particles fall to earth, the nitric and sulfuric acid that make the particles acidic can land on statues, buildings, and other manmade structures, and damage their surfaces. The acidic particles corrode metal and cause paint and stone to deteriorate more quickly. They also dirty the surfaces of buildings and other structures such as monuments.
The consequences of this damage can be costly:
- damaged materials that need to be repaired or replaced,
- increased maintenance costs, and
- loss of detail on stone and metal statues, monuments and tombstones.
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Other Effects of SO2 and NOX
In the atmosphere, SO2 and NOX gases can be transformed into sulfate and nitrate particles, while some NOX can also react with other pollutants to form ozone. These particles and ozone make the air hazy and difficult to see through. This affects our enjoyment of national parks that we visit for the scenic view such as Shenandoah and the Great Smoky Mountains.
Walking in acid rain, or even swimming in a lake affected by acid rain, is no more dangerous to humans than walking in normal rain or swimming in non-acidic lakes. However, when the pollutants that cause acid rain —SO2 and NOX, as well as sulfate and nitrate particles— are in the air, they can be harmful to humans.
SO2 and NOX react in the atmosphere to form fine sulfate and nitrate particles that people can inhale into their lungs. Many scientific studies have shown a relationship between these particles and effects on heart function, such as heart attacks resulting in death for people with increased heart disease risk, and effects on lung function, such as breathing difficulties for people with asthma.
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In addition, NOX emissions also contribute to ground level ozone, which is also harmful to human health.
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Acid Rain refers to a highly acidic rainfall, which causes material atmospheric and environmental depletion. It majorly affects the plants, aquatic creatures, infrastructure etc. Being acidic means it contains elevated level of hydrogen ions, i.e., low pH. In fact, normal rain water is already slightly acidic with a pH range of 5.3-6.0, because carbon dioxide and water present in the air react together to form carbonic acid, which is a weak acid. When the pH level of rain water falls below this range, it becomes Acid Rain.
Both natural and man-made sources are known to play a role in the formation of acid rain. But, it is mainly caused by combustion of fossil fuels which results in emissions of sulphur dioxide (SO2) and nitrogen oxides (NOx).
Acid Rain is a significant topic on which students are frequently asked to make projects or write essays. We are providing here essays on Acid Rain with different word limits, so that the relevant essay could be picked up by the students as per their words requirement.
Essay on Acid Rain
Acid Rain Essay 1 (200 words)
Most of us think of rain as something refreshing and beneficial to the environment, but actually not all types of rain are good. Acid rain is a type of rain that is harmful for the environment.
Acid rain includes rain, snow, hail, fog, or dew that is high in acid pollutants, especially sulphuric and nitric acid. Acid rain is caused by emissions of sulphur dioxide and nitrogen oxide, which reacts with the water molecules in the atmosphere to produce acids.
The reasons of presence of these acids in air are both natural and man-made. Volcanic eruptions and decaying vegetation constitute the natural reasons and pollution due to combustion of fossil fuels and from road transportation, chimneys, industrialisation etc account for man-made reasons of Acid Rain.
Acid Rain has been shown to have a bad impact on forests, water as well as soil. It kills insects and marine life-forms as well as causes damage to buildings and has drastic impacts on human health.
Acid rain also makes rivers, lakes and other water bodies poisonous. Many buildings and monuments have also been damaged by acid rain since the acid damages calcium carbonate stone.
While nothing can be done with regard to the natural causes of acid rain, we can teak steps to reduce the man-made factors. Towards this end, we should opt for cleaner forms of energy, such as the use of solar power, re-recycling of natural resources and by planting more & more trees.
Acid Rain Essay 2 (300 words)
Although the name might give you the impression that it’s pure acid falling from the sky but no, Acid Rain is actually created when certain gases are mixed with atmospheric moisture to create precipitation which is more acidic than the normal one. Acid Rain can easily be defined as rain, fog, sleet or snow that has been made acidic by contaminants present in the air as a result of fossil fuel and industrial combustions that mostly emits Nitrogen Oxides (NOx) and Sulphur Dioxide (SO2).
Acid Rain can be classified as: Dry Acid Rain or Wet Acid Rain. Both the wet and dry forms of acid rain can be carried away by the wind and travel a long distance before being deposited. Apart from these natural reasons, the pollution in the environment due to the chimneys, industries, vehicles etc, constitute man-made reasons for Acid Rain.
When the Acid Rain falls, it can dramatically alter the acidity level of the habitat and can cause a great damage and destruction to the living as well as the non-living things within.
The most drastic effects from Acid Rain could be damaging for all one and all including forests wildlife, aquatic biodiversity, human beings, buildings, infrastructures, soil, historical monuments and many more.
The way by which each one of us can prevent Acid Rain is by start using cleaner forms of energy, such as use of solar power, recycling of natural resources and by the massive tree plantation i.e. Afforestation. If we are determined to prevent Acid Rain on our part, then it can definitely lead to a better state of environment and a balanced pH level of air.
Acid Rain Essay 3 (400 words)
Acid Rain refers to a mixture of deposited material (wet or dry) coming from the atmosphere having huge amounts of nitric acid and sulphuric acid.
In simple terms, it means the rain that is acidic in nature due to the presence of certain elements in the air which is aggravated by the pollution of cars and industrial processes. Acidity is determined on the basis of the pH balance of the water droplets. Although, normal rain water is slightly acidic with a pH range of 5.3-6.0, because carbon dioxide (Co2) and water(H2O) present in the air react together to form carbonic acid. But when the pH level of rain water depletes below this range, it is referred as Acid Rain.
Causes of Acid Rain
Both natural and man-made reasons are said to play an important role in the occurrence of Acid Rain. Both volcanoes and decaying vegetation are the natural reasons for the release of gases that result in the formation of Acid Rain. However, the majority of gases come from man-made sources, such as fossil fuel combustion.
Effects of Acid Rain
Acid Rain has alarmingly negative effects which can be described as:
- Acid Rain can cause various respiratory problems and make breathing more difficult.
- It speeds up the decay of building materials and the paint on them is more likely to peel.
- The acidity also wears down stone statues, making them appear older and reducing their value. For example, the Taj Mahal has had to face the ill-effect of Acid Rain on its structure.
- Acid Rain also releases excess aluminium into the soil around trees, which makes difficult for them to absorb the water. For example, in Germany, there is a place called the “Black Forest”, which received its name because acid rain caused the trees to drop their needles with the result that they simply turned to black trunks and branches.
- It may not seem as though Acid Rain is much of an issue, but it can cause disasters, more than that we can even imagine.
How to Stop Acid Rain?
There are number of ways to prevent Acid Rain. But one way by which each one of us can stop it is by start adopting cleaner forms of energy, such as solar power, recycling of waste and use of electric cars. As we know, there are numerous attempts to clean the air, but the atmosphere is still a long way from being clean. If man becomes more careful about environment, the occurrence of Acid Rain can be minimised. But if we are not resolute in our attempts to reduce atmospheric pollution, we may eventually cause grave damage to all our natural resources, which would lead to the extinction of life on the Planet Earth.
Acid Rain Essay 4 (500 words)
Acid Rain can be defined as a type of rain or fog which is acidic in nature.
Basically, Acid Rain occurs when hazardous gases such as carbon dioxide (CO2), sulphur dioxide (SO2) and nitrogen oxide (NOX) react with rain .Exhaust fumes and open-air burning release carbon dioxide (CO2) into the atmosphere. When these gases enter the environment, they mix with the pure rain water to form deadly chemicals & acids like carbonic acid, sulphuric acid and nitric acid. Eventually, they form acid rain.
Acid Rain Causes
Mostly, Acid Rain occurs as a result of rising levels of pollution. Acid Rain is thus quite common in large towns and cities like Bangalore, Mumbai, and New Delhi, etc. This is due to the rapid industrialization and urbanization in these areas. However, acid rain and its effects are not confined or limited to these areas only; as the air blows it takes the hazardous chemicals along with it to far off places. Scientists also agree that the fossil fuels such as oil and natural gas, when burnt are a major cause of Acid Rain. Thus, industries which use fossil fuels like the automobile industries, paper industries and chemical industries should minimize the emission of harmful gases, which will in return reduce the percentage of acid in the rain.
Adverse Effects of Acid Rain
Acid rain has many adverse effects which can be described as follows:
- Lakes and rivers cannot sustain aquatic life when acid rain flows into the water. Acid rain affects the aquatic habitat of the ecosystem. The number and types of water animals and other aquatic plants that live in these waters decrease as the lakes, streams and other freshwater bodies become more acidic.
- It also leads to a reduction in crop yields.
- It causes massive damage to the forests and wildlife. When acid rain falls in forest areas, it releases toxic metals such as lead and zinc which cause the reduced growth of trees and plants. In this way, acid rain brings about reduced growth and the ultimate forest depletion.
- Being corrosive in nature, it can cause extensive damage to the buildings and infrastructure. An example of an important building that has been corroded by Acid Rain is the Taj Mahal at Agra.
- Acid Rain also affects human beings. Skin problems such as rashes and itching, hair loss and breathing problems are caused due to acid rain. Acid rain can also lead to heart and lung problems.
- Due to acid rain, the poisonous metals seep into underground drinking water sources also, thereby making it unfit for human consumption.
Solutions to acid rain:
Most of the factories are required to be equipped with Scrubbers now. Despite being very expensive to maintain, they remove maximum amount of sulphur dioxide after the coal is burnt. In scrubbers, poisonous gases are sprayed with a mixture of water and lime; limewater, which make a substance known as Sludge.
Another solution to lake acidity is liming. Lime is very alkaline, so when poured into lakes, it clears out the acidity. The only problem with liming is that it is expensive and only a temporary solution.
Another solution is something called a catalytic converter, which is required for all cars, buses, autos and other road transport. The converter is mounted on the exhaust pipe forcing all exhaust to pass through it. The catalytic converter converts the gases like nitrogen oxide, carbon dioxide, and unburned hydrocarbons into a cleaner air.
Acid Rain Essay 5 (600-800 words)
Acid Rain includes rain, snow, hail, fog, or dew that is high in acid pollutants, especially sulphuric and nitric acid. Acid Rain is caused by emissions of sulphur dioxide and nitrogen oxide, which reacts with the water molecules in the atmosphere to produce acids.
The term “Acid Rain” was coined in 1872 by Robert Angus Smith. The problem of Acid Rain has not only increased with rapid growth in population and industrialisation, but has also become more alarming. In fact, the use of the smokestacks (tall chimneys on a factory, ship, etc) to reduce local pollution has contributed to the spread of Acid Rain by releasing gases into regional atmospheric circulation.
Large amount of acid deposits are witnessed in the Canada, United States and most of the parts of Europe, including portions of Sweden, Norway, and Germany, currently. In addition, some amount of acid deposits are found in parts of South Asia, South Africa, Sri Lanka and Southern parts of India like Bangalore, New Delhi, Mumbai.
Types of acid rain:
There are two types of depositions in which acid rain occurs. They can be discussed as follows:
Wet deposition: When the acid falls on the ground in the form of rain, snow, fog or mist, it removes acid from the atmosphere and settles them on the Earth’s surface. When this acid flows through the ground, it affects a large number of plants, animals and aquatic life. The water from drain flows into the water sources like rivers and canals which is then mixed up into sea water; thereby affecting the aquatic habitats.
Dry deposition: When the acidic pollutants merge into dust or smoke and fall to the ground as dry particles, these stick to the ground and other surfaces such as buildings, cars, houses, trees and monuments. Majority of the acidic pollutants in the atmosphere spread through dry deposition.
Causes of acid rain:
The major causes of acid rain are Natural and Human-Instigated causes. However, Acid Rain is basically caused due to the combustion of fossil fuels which results in emissions of sulphur dioxide (SO2) and nitrogen oxide (NOx) in the atmosphere.
Natural Sources: The main nature causing agents for acid rain are volcanic eruptions. Volcanoes emit a large amount of lava, producing harmful gases which create higher than normal amount of Acid Rain. Decaying vegetation, wildfires and other biological processes within the environment also generate the Acid Rain forming gases. Dimethyl sulphide is a typical example of a major biological contributor to sulphur containing elements into the atmosphere. Lighting strikes also produce nitric oxides that react with water molecules via electrical activity to produce nitric acid, thereby forming acid rain.
Human-Instigated Sources: Human activities leading to the emissions of chemical gas include sulphur and nitrogen gases from the factories, power generating premises and automobiles. Most of all, the use of coal for electrical power generation is the biggest contributor to gaseous emissions which lead to acid rain. These gases react with water, oxygen, and other chemicals to form various acidic compounds such as sulphuric acid, nitric acid etc. As a result, those areas experience exceedingly high amounts of acid rain.
Harmful effects of acid rain:
Acid Rain adversely affects the following broad categories of environment:
- Marine Biodiversity
- Architecture & Infrastructure
- Forests and Forest wildlife
- Public Health and so on
Methods to Avoid Acid Rain: Acid Rain caused due to the natural reasons cannot be stopped but there are ways following which we can avoid the same caused due to man-made reasons.
The ways by which acid rain can be avoided are as follows:
By the use of limestone, known as liming process, by which people can repair the damages caused by Acid Rain to lakes, rivers, brooks and other water sources. By adding lime into acidic surface, water balances the acidity. Although, it only offers only a short-term solution at the expense of solving the broader challenges of SO2 and NOx emissions and risks to human health, nevertheless, it helps to restore and allow the survival of the marine life by improving chronically acidified waters.
Millions of people directly or indirectly contribute towards SO2 and NOx emissions. Mitigation of this challenge requires individuals to be more updated about energy conservation such as; turning off lights or electrical appliances when not using them; use public transportation; use of energy efficient electrical appliances; and use of hybrid vehicles or those with negligible NOx emissions.
Besides fossil fuels, there is a wide range of substitutable energy sources that can generate electrical power. These include wind energy, solar energy, geothermal energy, nuclear power and hydro energy. Harnessing these energy sources can offer effective electrical power alternatives instead of using fossil fuels. Natural gas, fuel cells and batteries can also substitute use of fossil fuels.
As you can see, there are many attempts to clean our air, but due to increase in population and rapid industrialization, we need to make efforts on a war footing to reduce the phenomenon of Acid Rain. The whole world needs to take a call to avoid inflicting colossal damage to the environment.