Acid Rain and Its Effects on Our Aquatic Ecosystems
In the past century, one of the greatest threats to North America 's aquatic ecosystem has been the widespread acidification of hundreds of thousands of waterways. Acid rain has effected plant and animal life within aquatic ecosystems, as well as microbiologic activity by affecting the rates of decomposition and the accumulation of organic matter.
What causes this poisonous rain, and what can be done to improve North America 's water quality and prevent future catastrophes?
To answer these questions, we must first examine the cause and formation of acid rain, as well as understand ways to decrease or prevent its formation.
Formation of acid rain.
Acid deposition, more commonly known as acid rain, occurs when emissions of sulfur dioxide (SO2) and nitrogen oxides (NOx) react in the atmosphere with water, oxygen, and oxidants to form acidic compounds. This mixture forms a mild solution of sulfuric and nitric acid which then falls to the earth in either wet (rain, snow, sleet or fog) or dry (gas and particles) form. Approximately one-half of the atmosphere 's acidity falls back to earth through dry deposition in the form of particles and gases, and are then spread hundreds of miles by winds where they settle on surfaces of buildings, cars, homes, and trees. When acid rain falls, the dry deposited gases and particles are sometimes washed from buildings, trees and other surfaces making the runoff water combine with the acid rain more acidic than the falling acid rain alone. This new combination is referred to as acid deposition. The runoff water is then transported by strong prevailing winds and public sewer systems into lakes and streams. Although some natural sources such as volcanic eruptions, fire and lightening contribute to the emissions of sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides in the atmosphere, more than 90% is the result of human activities such as coal burning, smelting of metals such as zinc, nickel
References: Acid Deposition and its Ecological Effects. Retrieved October 15th, 2000 from the World Wide Web: http://bigmac.civil.mtu.edu/public_html/classes/ce459/projects/t17/r17.html Acid Relief (Retrieved October 15th, 2000 from EBSCOhost database on the World Wide Web: http://www.ebsco.com The Continuing Saga of Acid Rain Retrieved October 15th, 2000 from EBSCOhost database on the World Wide Web: http://www.ebsco.com The forgiving Air: Understanding Environmental Change. University of California Press United States Environmental Protection Agency. Affects of Acid Rain on Water. Retrieved October 15th, 2000 from the World Wide Web: http://www.epa.gov/acidrain/student/water.html