Acid rain occurs when the pH level of rainwater is decreased. This causes water to be acidic; as a result, this impacts fish, plants, and soil. This phenomenon occurs due to both natural and human sources. Acid rain came to the attention of the EPA and has resulted in several attempts to counter the various negative effects.
What is Acid Rain and What Causes It?
Acid rain is simply any rain that has higher levels of acidity than normal. This occurs because sulfur dioxides and nitrogen oxides have chemical reactions with molecules of atmospheric water; these chemical interactions lower the pH of the rainwater. Sources of these chemical reactions are natural and can be caused by human beings. In nature, volcanoes contribute to the acidity of rain water; human sources of acid rain are electricity generation, cars, and other processes that use fossil fuels for combustion. As a result, acid rain primarily occurs in and around the developed countries such as Canada, the United States, and much of Europe. This is because the high amount of technological development and the widespread use of large amounts of electricity require that fossil fuels be burned to meet this demand, releasing emissions.
What Does Acid Rain Do?
By lowering the acidity of water, acid rain impacts fish by making it less likely for the fish to hatch. Also, it damages other aquatic animals and, through doing this, decreases the biodiversity and overall viability and complexity of the aquatic ecosystem. Besides this, acid rain changes the composition of the soil. Important and essential minerals such as magnesium can be stripped away from the soil. Once again, this causes an immense disruption to the complex ecosystems of the natural world. By disrupting soil, plants that, for instance, require magnesium, may not live. Then, an insect dependent on that plant may face difficulties. This disruptive process can go on and on.
What Is Being Done About It?
Various places that emit sulfur oxides and nitrogen oxides have had to rethink their operating procedures. For instance, coal fired power plants now use scrubbing technology to eradicate oxides from entering the atmosphere. In the United States, the Environmental Protection Agency has begun an emissions trading program to ensure that companies do not exceed their limit of sulfur oxides and nitrogen oxides.
How Effective Has It Been?
Through various programs such as emissions trading and technologies that decrease the amount of emissions, acid rain has decreased in severity. However, it continues to upset various ecological conditions around the world because the effects of acid rain linger on far after the nitrogen oxides and sulfur dioxides are decreased in the atmosphere.