Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Future Implications of Acid Rain

The nineteenth century was the witness to several social, economic, political and technological changes. The industrial revolution changed the world in true sense. Many great inventions can be attributed to this era. But along with several boons that this era has offered, it has also left a grave problem for the future generations to deal with critical environmental issues.

Acid rain was first reported by Scottish scientist Robert Angus Smith in 1852. However the term 'acid rain' came into existence in 1972. Acid rain is the manifestation of serious air pollution. The gases emitted from various sources mix with the rain to form an acidic precipitation, called acid rain. This acidic precipitation is capable of threatening the balance of entire ecological cycle. Acid rain affects all the living beings directly or indirectly. The future implications of acid rains can be severe, if proper measures are not taken on time.

Effect of Acid Rain
Acid rain can induce long-lasting effects on the life on earth. The various ecological components affected by acid rain are:

Human Beings
It is not the acid rain that directly affects the human beings, but the pollution that causes it. Air pollutions leads to several health problems like bronchitis, asthma or damage to lungs. The sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides may lead to irritation of eyes, ears and nose and poor visibility. These pollutants can also cause throat infections and dry coughs. In addition, several problems may arise due to consumption of intoxicated plants or animals.

Acid rain can deplete the nutrients in the soil, thereby depriving the plants of their food. Nutrients in soil dissolve in acid rain and get washed away before the plants can utilize them. The poor quality acidic soil is not only incapable of buffering but it also becomes intoxicated with harmful substances like mercury and aluminum, which are absorbed by the plants. Also, the acidic fog that covers the trees, deprives the leaves of sunlight and makes them weak. As a result, the leaves are unable to perform photosynthesis, rendering the trees weak and susceptible to various diseases and infections. Crops and other plantation are less likely to be affected by the acid rain, as the soil is enriched by the fertilizers. But applying excessive fertilizers is not beneficial for soil quality in the long run.

Aquatic Life
The acid rain interferes with the natural PH of water, which is between 6 to 8. When acid rain mixes with water in lakes and streams, the PH of water is reduced to 5. PH level below 5.0 is extremely detrimental to aquatic life. The young ones of most species are particularly sensitive to the acidic water. They find it even more difficult to survive in such water than adults. This endangers the entire species. Many species of fishes, frogs and other marine organisms have already become extinct while several others are on the verge of extinction.

Animals and Birds
Animals and birds are not directly affected by the acid rain, but as they are the part of food chain, they invariably have to face the effects. Consuming plants that are intoxicated by the acid rain can produce certain problems in animals and birds. Reduction in forest also deprives them of their habitat. This may result in substantial decrease in their population.

Other Effects of Acid Rain
Other effects of acid rain include damage to several monuments and places of historic importance. The major pollutants of acid rain, sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide erode the marble and limestone which form the major part of construction materials for most buildings. Fading and peeling of color of buildings is the common effect of acid rain. Many great structures in the world like Taj Mahal in India, Washington Monument, Renaissance buildings in Italy, Acropolis in Greece have all been affected by the acid rain.

Though the havoc played by acid rain cannot be reversed, certain actions can be taken to avoid further damage. General awareness among common people and pressure from various environmental groups have forced the Governments to take measures against the acid rain. Lakes and streams can regain their PH balance by the process of liming. Liming means dissolving large quantities of alkaline substances like quicklime into the water bodies. In addition, measures like reducing power consumption, cutting down on fuel and afforestation can also bring down the pollution level to a great extent.

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