Effects of Acid Rain on an Ecosystem

Acid rain is a widespread problem found all over the world. The corrosive effects of acidic waters on man. Total effects of a factory polluting the air. Acid rain is devastating to the ecosystem and is one of the most pressing environmental issues today.

Рубрика Экология и охрана природы
Вид эссе
Язык английский
Дата добавления 16.05.2012
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Essay on acid rain

Completed student Popadenko Irina

Kyiv 2012

I. Effects of Acid Rain on an Ecosystem

Acid rain is a widespread problem found all over the world. It is the result of chemicals from burned fossil fuel mixing with moisture in the atmosphere and falling to the ground as rain, snow, sleet, etc. Acid deposition is a more precise name than acid rain because acid can fall to the ground as rain, snow, sleet, hail, and anything else. It can also combine with dry particles and fall to the ground; therefore it is called dry deposition whereas acid coming down in rain is called wet deposition.

People have known about air pollution since the philosopher Seneca remarked on Rome's polluted skies in AD 61. Even though people were aware of the problem they ignored they it. Up until the last century people have ignored the problem of air pollution including air pollution's most dangerous problem, acid rain. Acid rain is devastating to the ecosystem and is one of the most pressing environmental issues today.

Acid rain forms in the atmosphere from chemicals created by the burning of fossil fuels. When coal and oil are burned they release sulfur dioxide (SO2) and two nitric oxides, nitric oxide (NO) and nitrogen dioxide (NO2) designated by the symbol NOX. These dangerous chemicals come from the smoke that pours from factory chimneys and exhaust from car tail pipes. Once released, sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides react with other chemicals in the air, water vapor, and sunlight to produce sulfuric and nitric acids, the acids in acid rain. The more sulfuric and nitric acids present, the higher the acidity of the rain. On a 14 point scale, 7 being neutral, anything less than 7 is considered acidic and anything more is considered alkaline. Battery acid is about 1 acidity and lemon juice is around 2 acidity. Regular rain is between 5 and 6 acidity. Acid rain is somewhere between 2 and 5.5. The worst case of acid rain ever recorded was in Wheeling, West Virginia where the rain had an acidity of 2.2. These levels of acidity seriously harm plants, trees, and all other life.

All over the world, acid levels are rising which endangers trees, lakes, streams, drinking water supplies, monuments, and animal life. Basically everything is effected by acid rain. Not only life is effected, but also buildings (such as national monuments), roads, even metals on cars and bridges.

When acid rain occurs, it doesn't immediately effect acidity in lakes and streams. The water dilutes the acid so only over a long period of time can the water become too acidic. In the spring, something called acid shock can happen. Snow, that contains acid, can build up and when it melts all the acid runs into the streams and lakes at one time. When acid levels are too high it can kill small organisms like algae. When the algae dies other bigger organisms that eat algae die from starvation. It is a big chain reaction until all life is gone. Some lakes, i.e. the lakes in the Adirondack Mountains of New York State have been stripped of all life because the acid levels are too high. Acidic water that seeps into soil can also kill trees that are nearby.

Buildings are taking a toll from acid rain. The acid corrodes the stones and cement. Some buildings have been permanently weakened beyond repair. There are definitely many effects from acid rain, but the question is, how do we fix them?

Now that acid rain is widely acknowledged throughout the world, more and more people are doing something about it. For example: In November 1990, President George Bush signed the Clean Air Act, which had an annual cost of up to $25 billion. It cut sulfur dioxide emissions by 10 million tons a year. It also cut nitrogen oxides by 2 million tons a year. Europe agreed to cut sulfur dioxide emissions by 30% of 1980 levels, and a freeze (not increasing) on nitrogen oxide emissions at 1987 levels.

Now all factories are required to be outfitted with scrubbers, which cost $150 million each. They are very expensive to maintain, but they remove 95% of sulfur dioxide after coal is burned. In scrubbers, poisonous gases are sprayed with a mix of water and lime. Together the sulfur, water, and lime form a gray, gooey substance called sludge.

Another solution to lake acidity is liming. Lime is very alkaline, so when poured into lakes it cancels out the acidity. The problem with liming is that it is very expensive and only temporarily reduces acidity.

Another solution is something called a catalytic converter, which is required on all cars. The converter is mounted on the exhaust pipe forcing all exhaust to pass through it. This converts nitrogen oxides, carbon dioxides, and unburned hydrocarbons into a cleaner state.

As you can see, there are many attempts to clean our air, but the atmosphere is still a long way from being clean. If attempts to clean our air continue, our rain may return to normal and acidic lakes, over a period of time, would return to normal. But if our attempts to clean up our own mess fail, we may cause ourselves to kill all our natural resources, which would lead to the extinction of all life on this planet, even humans.

II. Acid-Rain in the forest and beyond

Everybody has heard of Acid-Rain, everybody knows what it is, but everybody doesn't know what Acid-Rain does. Acid-Rain has effects that just doesn't effect one place in the forest but it effects most of the forest. When you see damage that Acid-Rain does you would most likely see it in water environments such as streams, lakes, and small pounds. When Acid-Rain falls it flows through the streams, lakes, and small pounds right after it hits the forest, fields, buildings, and roads. But only sometimes Acid-Rain can fall directly in the water. When Acid-Rain falls more and more different types of fish and other aquatic plants and animals that live in theses waters decrease by the day... week... year. Because Acid-Rain causes the loss of acid-sensitive plants and animals, and fish that rely on these organisms for food may also be affected. So just by Acid-Rain falling into water that is some of the things that Acid-Rain can do but there is a lot more. When Acid-Rain comes down it hits the plants and kills the plants being unable to grow back. The soil will dry up and stay hard until it is watered if this continues then there will be no more plants on Earth and if there is no more plants on Earth then all humans will die because plants have air and without air people will die. Acid-Rain can effect not only water and water environments but it can effect land. Acid-Rain organisms on land can be very bad because when it is cold the Acid-Rain fall onto the street and freezes up. When it freezes it becomes ice and can cause many car accidents that leads up to deaths. When Acid-Rains falls it kills animals homes all at the same time leaving nothing but broken trees and hard soil. As a result of their homes being near the water environments their food that comes from the water will most likely to harder to get because the population would be decreasing. People help with Acid-Rain in away because we pollute the air with our cars and other things that give off gas and Acid-Rain pollutes the air as it come down so nature and humans are polluting the air.

Acid- Rain do not effect just water environments and land but one of the serious side effects of acid rain on human is "respiratory" problems. The dioxide and nitrogen oxide emission gives risk to respiratory problems such as dry coughs, asthma, headaches, eye, nose, and throat irritation. Polluted rainfall is especially harmful to those who suffer from asthma or those who have a hard time breathing.

But even healthy people can have their lungs damaged by acid air and rain. Acid rain can aggravate a person's ability to breathe and may increase disease which could lead to death. The United States provide a glimpse of such costs. That acid precipitation destroys, overall, $13,000 million annually in the eastern part of the nation and could cause $1,750 million yearly in forest damage, $8,300 million in crop damage in the Ohio River basin alone by about the year 2000 and $40 million in health costs in the State of Minnesota.

The only cost-effective solution to the problem, according to many people, is to reduce emissions at their point of origin. Anyone investigating acid rain should update these figures. In conclusion, all these things kills off the forest in so many different ways if it is not by Acid-Rain then it is by cars. When we do things we are killing our self. So Acid-Rain can kill things that we need so know everybody knows about what it and everybody has heard of it and everybody knows what it does now.

III. Acid Rain. What kind of destruction can/does acid rain cause

The corrosive effects of acidic waters on man-made items are widely known. On the other hand, we only can speak mostly in generalities when discussing the effects of acid-rain on natural environments. The short-term danger from acid rain is mostly to forest and lake ecosystems, which are very sensitive to chemical imbalances in their environment. With the loss of these ecosystems that effectively moderate the pH of surface run-off water in many areas, the effect of acid rain on local water supplies could become more pronounced in the future.

Where does the pollutant that forms acid rain come from? How is acid rain formed?

Acid rain forms when molecules of oxidized sulfur and/or nitrogen in the atmosphere combine with water, forming acidic compounds that dissolve in the water that becomes rain. Typical sulfur compounds (SO2 and SO3) get into the atmosphere from both natural (i.e. volcanoes, windblown dust containing gypsum-which has SO4 ions in it, etc..) and non-natural (i.e., burning of coal, refining of metal ores) sources. Nitrogen compounds also get into the atmosphere and form acids, although the natural sources are much more limited. The biggest non-natural source is burning fossil fuels, especially gasoline.

There are many problems and effects caused by acid rain. Acid rain can cause buildings, statues and bridges to deteriorate faster than usual. another problem is it harms thousands of lakes, rivers, and streams worldwide. It disrupts lake ecosystems and kill wildlife in affected lakes, rivers and streams. Acid rain also damages soil and the tree roots in it. When soil is acidified, tree roots are damaged, leaving them not able to draw in enough nutrients to support the tree. When acid rain falls on trees, it makes their leaves turn brownish-yellow and the tree can no longer carry out photosynthesis properly. Another problem is it will harm people when they breathe in smog, acid rain in one of its many forms. Acid rain can also harm people in-directly. This happens when people eat fish caught in affected lakes or rivers. Also, if the water source is acidic enough, it will react with copper or lead pipes to harm humans. It also washes aluminum into the water supply. Birds can be harmed if they live in affected waters or feed on fish living in affected waters.

This picture shows the total effects of a factory polluting the air through these steps:

1.) A factory by a lake releases smoke into the air 

2.) Dry deposition from the smoke falls into the lake 

3.) The rest of the smoke rises up and forms acid rain in the atmosphere

4.) The wind causes the acid rain cloud to travel 

5.) Acid rain falls on a forest and acid snow falls on a mountain

6.) After all this, the lake is affected, the river is affected, the soil is affected and the vegetation is affected

IV. Acid Rain And The Social Impact

acid rain polluting ecosystem

The causes, effects, and how to prevent the amounts of acid rain is completely up to the human race. The cause of acid rain is simple. It's the humans and their constant quest for the cheapest most efficient way to do things. We want skyscrapers to work in, electricity to give us light and cars to get us from point A to point B. The gases such as sulfur dioxide, nitrogen monoxide, and nitrogen dioxide are created from the production of steel and iron, utility factories and crude oil processing. The smelting of metal sulfate ore produces pure metal. This causes the release of sulfur dioxide. Metals such as zinc, nickel and copper are obtained by this process. There is cost efficient ways to obtain these things and then there is cleaner ways which are better for our environment. Of course the manufacturers are going to want to use the less costly. Their greed and their constant quest to have more and more is what seems to be the first area of concern to them. One can only have so much, then what is there? I'll tell you what there isn't and that's satisfaction. We the people really don't need more than what we use. Yet there is constant over indulgence in our society. Give me more and more and don't forget to give it to me for free. The problem lies within the consumer as much as it does the producer. No one is at more fault than the other.

The affects that acid rain has on our lives is devastating and if we do not stop it, it will ultimately kill the human existence. Acid rain is accumulated in our clouds and in our atmosphere. It travels from place to place spreading its destruction across the land. The affects of acid rain aren't immediate. It is more of a slow gradual process. Every year as the pH balances get worse we notice more effects the acid rain has. It affects our trees and plant life, our lakes and streams and the animals as well. The animals are affected by drinking the water that runs off the mountains and eating the plant life. We humans are affected by the depletion of the trees that gives us the necessary oxygen to breathe as well as the vegetation and animals we consume. Indirectly we are affected but we affect it directly and constantly everyday by our selfish wants, fictitious needs and our persistence in searching for efficiency.

What we can do to stop our ever so obvious suicide we commit on a daily basis is quite simple to see. Find more environmentally friendly ways to exist and have our manufacturers understand it needs to be cost efficient. Solar energy and the development of different ways to harness it for our usage could possibly be an effective way to reduce the amounts of acid rain. Hybrid cars as well as the usage of natural gases, propane and hydrogen are also good suggestions to cut down on the amount of pollution that goes into our atmosphere. The manufacturers must remember it must be cost efficient or the consumer will not be able to survive. It's either the demise of humanity or corporations understanding the cost of living for the low man on the totem pole. It would be nice if they could try to help humanity instead of themselves and their ten million dollar mansions surrounded by their thirty six, two hundred thousand dollar cars. These cars, may I add, probably emit the same gases that are causing the destruction of not only the environment but our civilization on planet Earth. Everyone must be in compliance and everyone must play their part. Those who have must give what they can and those who don't must contribute what they are able to. Some have money, some have solutions while some can physically help, others can organize the possible ways and effective plans to solve this continuously growing problem that we constantly overlook. This cannot be done gradually. It must be done all at once. Every one of us holds an important piece to this world wide puzzle. In conclusion, people are the cause of acid rain, humans are affecting our planet in this negative way and only we can change this. It's up to us not as individuals but as a whole.

Word list

Acid rain - кислотні дощі;

fossil fuel - викопне паливо;

air pollution - забруднення повітря;

scrubbers - скрубери;

liming - вапнування;

catalytic - каталізатор;

"respiratory" problems - дихальні проблеми;

tree roots - коріння дерев;

lead pipes - свинцеві труби;

greed - жадібність;

cost efficient - економічно-чисті.

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