Acid rain is any type of precipitation that has a lower PH than normal, causing high acidity levels in it. It is caused by naturally occurring and man-made items. Acid rain has several damaging effects on the environment.
In the mid 19th century, Robert Angus Smith discovered that acidic precipitation, or acid rain, was damaging plant life in forest regions. He discovered that these deteriorating ecosystems were nearest to industrial areas that released large amounts of carbon and waste. Acid rain became a global issue during the 1970s when scientists noticed the lowering PH levels of the planet's lakes and streams. Further research into atmospheric pollutants brought the realisation of the link between pollution and acid rain. Public awareness increased because of damage to structures and the problem in forests became apparent.
Spreading Of Pollutants
Acid rain starts as a local occurrence and falls primarily around the source of industrial or other sources of carbon emissions. However, rainwater and ice melt is carried from the location and is spread into rivers, streams and lakes. It also soaks into the soil creating a rise in nitrates which can be dangerous if consumed by humans or animals.
The aquatic biome makes up 70 per cent of the Earth's surface and as of 2009, many of the planet's lakes, streams and rivers are damaged because of the acidity of the water. Low PH levels in these bodies of water create a domino effect, which can ultimately kill the aquatic plant and animal life. The plants and algae become contaminated with trace chemicals such as aluminium, sulphur and mercury that are released into the water, and the fish and other water life eat these plants and algal blooms. In turn, the aquatic life becomes poisoned.
Soil stability is one of the most important factors in a healthy existence for not only plants, but for animals and people as well. The soil is what pumps nutrition into the plants we rely on for food and oxygen, and the acidity of the pollutants that acid rain creates greatly reduces the quality of the plants that grow from it. Crops and farms suffer as well from acid rain. The contaminated water that soaks into the soil also makes its way into drinking water.
Acid rain has a profound affect on the wildlife of the Earth's environment on different levels. Animals drink from streams and ponds that are contaminated by the acid precipitation and many also eat the fish from the polluted waters. Animals that rely on fruit, nut and seed bearing plants also suffer because of the deterioration of forestland. The destruction of these natural habitats leaves the animals vulnerable.
Effects On Humans
Acid rain affects people as well as the animals and the environment. People consume water that may be tainted with nitrates that are released by acid rain into the soil. Consumption of contaminated fish exposes people to the chemicals that are consumed by aquatic life in polluted water. The quality of air decreases because of the deterioration of forests that rob us of oxygen giving trees.
Buildings And Statues
Acidic particles accumulate on buildings, cars and statues, causing the materials to become stained and weakened. These particles that are caused by acid rainfall, also contribute to the oxidisation of bronze and copper metals, turning them green. A common example of this phenomena is the Statue of Liberty.