Acid Rain and Its Effects on the Biosphere

Acid Rain and Its Effects on the Biosphere
Acid Rain: whenever I conjure up images of acid rain I always allude to huge, boiling-red raindrops falling from mean purple clouds on a path destined for destruction. I can see them spiraling down uncontrollably in fireballs of rage to the earth; it becomes very apparent. Perhaps my imagination has gotten the better of me here, but acid rain is definitely no sweetheart. Actually, acid rain looks like any other rain. Believe it or not, it does not have flaming tales on the end of it, but it can produce some serious risks to the world as we know it.
These are pH testers.
Formed high in the clouds where sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides combine with oxygen and water, acid rain has a devastating ability to kill off aquatic systems, vegetation, animals, etc. The definition of acid rain is the deposition of acidic components in rain, fog, snow, and sleet. Regular rain has a pH that is slightly acidic at 5.6, but what makes one worry are the places like Washington, D.C., which possesses rain readings of 4.2 to 4.4 on the pH scale. Acid rain is mainly composed of Sulfuric Oxide (SO2) and Nitrous Oxide, which are common air pollutants from big industries, 70% of which are electric utility plants. If one views the amount pH levels of various areas around the nation it is easy to see that there is a problem, especially when a 4.0 pH level can drive many fish to die.

Certainly acid rain has a great deal of negative effects on the geosphere, atmosphere, and hydrosphere. But maybe the most important system for us to observe as scientist is the biosphere. The biosphere with out a doubt is the most visible of the systems on our planet. The reason it is so easy to monitor is because it is all around us. We see trees and their growth, animals running around, and fields of grass with cows grazing. We are the biosphere and therefore we can and will see the changes. If there is something wrong and we don?t have a pH scale to measure, we will sense it through the living environment around us.
Trees and Vegetation:

One of the most serious effects of acid rain can be traced to trees and the soil they grow from. When sulfuric acid falls to earth as rain, the Nitrogen Oxide and Nitric Oxide strip the earth?s soils of their nutrients. When these nutrients are stripped, it may hinder the growth of all trees in a particular forest. A good example of this are the red spruce trees in the higher elevations of the Appalachian Mountains. They are affected by acid rain in that it impairs their growth, making them susceptible to winter injury and killing them off much more quickly than usual. Plants and other vegetation are also affected by acid rain. They too need nutrients to survive. There is also evidence of acid rain increasing the growth of nitrogen-fixing algae that increases the number of pathogens making vegetation more susceptible to disease. As a result, acid rain in forest can be extremely costly to the ozone in that forest degradation is occurring once again.
Effects on Ecosystems and aquatic systems:

The way acid rain contributes to earth?s water systems can be extremely negative in a short period of time. Acid rain basically affects water that is above soil. These lakes, river?s, and streams are very sensitive due to their inability to neutralize the acid. In a survey by the National Water Service in which they tested thousands of lakes and streams, it was found that 75 percent test sites were acidic. Many of these lakes and streams have killed off the fish life. Some fish handle the acid better but it may not matter. In ecosystems, animals are interdependent on other animals. And acid rain can prove to be detrimental to all species, even the strong, but especially the young. Hypothetically: if a frog eats baby trout but trout has died out, what will happen to the frog if that is all he eats? He may die off and leave that fox without any frogs to eat. What if a bear depends on fish to eat and they all die off in the lake he lives at? This could cause a big problem for that bear.
What if the water is too acidic for animals to drink? Acid rain can affect a lot of animals due to the fact that water is so important. If it is not suitable for animals to get by on it is going to have a great affect on that animal. What affects one animal could easily do the same to others.
In the case of how acid rain affects trees, many animals live in trees for protection; they also feed off the vegetation on the soil as well. With the destruction of these trees and vegetation, it may kill other animals, bugs, etc.

In comparing the pH map and the fish chart/pH level, one can see that current pH levels are already too low for the following fish in areas such as the Northeast. The only animal that would be able to survive in a lake or freshwater source in Central New York would be a frog, which is able to live in a pH of 4.0.

Acid Rain and its effects on Humans:

Acid rain is capable of having a jurassic effect on humans. So much of our life depends on trees, animals, vegetation, the buildings we live in, and especially water we drink. In Canada alone forestry is an industry worth 10 billion dollars a year. 10% of people working in Canada depend on forestry. If for some reason there were a shortage of trees a lot of people would lose their job. But there are so many examples of how dangerous too much acid rain can be. Humans like other animals are interdependent. Just like the bear, if we run out of our resources we will be forced to change, and it may make life more difficult. It has also been proven that acid rain can affects one?s health as well, just like it would a fish in a pond that had a pH level of 4.5. Yes, it is true that in a recent study by Harvard and New York University that higher levels of sulfur dioxide in acid rain can cause a higher incidence of morbidity (sickness) and mortality from lung disorders. Humans are not immune to the affects of acid rain. It can even affect our prized possessions such as the statues, buildings, sculptures, and paints. A report from the epa (Environmental Protection Agency) says that acid rain accelerates decay of concrete among other building materials. First our resources, then our health, and now our buildings and places we live in? So we are not invincible to acid rain and its domino effect on the ecosystems of our lives. The big question now is: what are we doing about it? Where is the government in all of this?
With the onset of acid rain, days like this could become obsolete.

Possible solutions:

To start out, two very simple solutions an individual can do that will help cut down the amount of sulfur going into the air is car-pooling and reducing the amount of energy being used in the home. Cars definitely emit their share of toxins into the air; we all know that and are getting better at it. And there is a very easy incentive to cutting down on home utilities?spend less money. Since it is the electrical plants that produce much of the pollution that attributes to acid rain, less usage of their product will cut down on the amount of sulfur output. As for the government, they are also contributing as we speak. In 1995 title 5 of the"Clean Air Act" was designed to stop the emissions of pollution by ten tons since 1980 and monitor the amount being put out annually. The epa has also put together the cem (Continuous Emissions Monitoring) which continuously monitors the emission of pollutants in industry. The cem has guidelines on equipment: An owner regulated under the cem acid rain program must adhere and install cem units that monitor the SO2 output and the N0x output as well. The program should cut down emissions by 40%. But more than 40% percent is needed to end this problem. Acid rain could have serious ramifications if it is not dealt with. Each living organism affects another living orgnaism. Animals, plants, and human?s all have a duty to eachother, to surive together the best we can. It is up to us to make this thing work, it will not be hard if we pay attention and do the little things.

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