Professor: Shanim Ahsan
Course: CHE 109
Acid Rain And Its Effects On Soil, Plants And Ecosystem
Human beings have used various natural resources for their benefit since the beginning of the civilization. To make their life easier, they have produced facilities that use many of the Earth’s energy resources. On one side this kind of development makes our lives easier, but on the other hand it results into pollution by release harmful substance into environment. Acid rain is the most serious environmental pollution. Acid rain is a broad term that describes several ways through which acid falls out from the atmosphere. Acid rain includes acidic rain, fog, hail and snow. Sulfuric acid and nitric acid are the main acids present in acid rain. The problem occurs when rainwater combines with gaseous oxides of sulfur, nitrogen, and phosphoric and hydrochloric acid mists. Acid rain occurs when these gases react in the atmosphere with water, oxygen, and other chemicals to form various acidic compounds. These pollutants originate from human activities such as combustion of burnable waste, fossil fuels in thermal power plants and automobiles.
Rain is one of the most essential ingredients for human and animal life. But right now, instead of provide water to all organism, rain is now become the tool to kill each single living thing on the Earth due to the pollution from homes, factories, power stations and cars. Acid rain makes waters acidic, and causes them to absorb the aluminum that makes its way from soil into lakes and streams. This combination makes waters toxic to crayfish, clams, fish, and other aquatic animals. Soil is one of the most important ecological factors. Every plant depends on it for their nutrient and water supply. Acid rain results into acidification of soil, which increases the exchange between hydrogen ion and nutrient cations like potassium (K), magnesium (Mg) and calcium (Ca) in the soil. These cations are liberated into soil and can be rapidly leached out in soil solution along with sulphate from acid input. Acid rain leads to nutrient deficiency in the affected soils. These loss of soil fertility results into decrease in the growth of plants including trees on acidified soil, weaken trees and plants by damaging their leaves, limiting the nutrients available to them, or exposing them to toxic substances slowly released from the soil. Acid rain also blocks the small pores on the leaves\' surface, through which they take in carbon dioxide. With improper functioning of leaves, the growth of trees gets retarded. Over the years, scientists, foresters, and others have noted a slowed growth of some forests. Leaves and needles turn brown and fall off when they should be green and healthy. In extreme cases, individual trees or entire areas of the forest simply die off without an obvious reason. Acid rain washed away harmful substances like aluminum, lead and mercury from the soil to neighboring water resources resulting in water pollution. These chemicals and their acids do not allow the flora and fauna to grow and reproduce. This also results in depletion of oxygen levels in water, thereby making it difficult for fish to respire. They die due to suffocation and poisoning caused by the presence of these chemicals. Birds that feed on fish that are affected by these harmful chemicals, accumulate these elements in their systems. These chemicals are then passed on to animals that feed on such birds. In this manner, chemicals get introduced to each trophic level of the food chain. And human health will definitely get affected by these impacts due to acid rain.
Acid rain can be neutralized by reaction with calcium (Ca) and magnesium (Mg) compounds in soil. Limestone (CaCO3). A substance common in soil, neutralizes acids when H+ ions replace calcium-producing Ca2+ ions. The only way to fight acid rain is by curbing the release of the pollutants that cause it. This means burning fewer fossil fuels. There are other sources of electricity besides fossil fuels such as nuclear power, hydropower, wind energy, geothermal energy, and solar energy to use. Many governments are now requiring energy producers to clean smokestacks by using scrubbers which trap pollutants before they are released into the atmosphere and catalytic converters in cars to reduce their emissions. And for each individual, they can prevent it by conserving energy. For example turn off lights, computers, and other appliances when not using them, or only use electric appliances when only need it. The less electricity people use in their homes, the fewer chemicals power plants will emit. Vehicles are also major fossil fuel users, so drivers can reduce emissions by using public transportation, carpooling, biking, or simply walking.
Therefore, acid rain affects variety of plants and animals in the environment. Acid rain can also affect indirectly the human health. Generally, rainfall that has a pH value less than 5.6 is considered as acid rain. Acids rain is described in terms of wet and dry depositions. the wet deposition refers to acidic rain, frog and snow whereas dry deposition refers to acidic gases and particles. People right now is trying to save the Earth by Clean smokestacks, use less electricity that caused fossil fuels, as well as using alternative energy sources for vehicles in order to create a safe environment.
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