When we think of the effects of acid rain, most people tend to think about things like stone buildings and wooden outdoor furniture deteriorating faster than normal, or even romantic notions like streams trickling over rocks in a more spirited fashion.
In reality, though, acid rain has much more serious implications for the environment and the organisms that live in it. So what exactly is acid rain? And how can acid rain affect organisms that live in the water?
If you’re reading this article, there’s a good chance that you already have an idea as to what exactly “acid rain” is. If not – don’t worry! We’ll get to explaining all of this shortly.
Acid rain primarily affects aquatic microbes that live in lakes, rivers, or streams. The fish become unable to digest their food fully because of the acidic condition of their environment, leaving them more prone to disease. The acidic nature of the rainwater has a negative effect on their ability to survive and thrive in their environments.
This article will explain how acid rain affects organisms that live in the water and what we can do about it as humans so that future generations may also enjoy clean water once again.
What is Acid Rain?
Acid rain is a form of precipitation that has been exposed to various pollutants within the atmosphere that causes it to become acidic. These pollutants are usually nitric oxide, sulfur dioxide, and nitrogen dioxide. When these chemicals come into contact with moisture in the air (such as fog or cloud water), they undergo chemical reactions that result in them becoming acidic – hence why we call it ‘acid rain’.
These rains are typically pH 3 or less and can have a high concentration of nitric acid. The result is an accelerated process of acidification that destroys ecosystems and exhausts water supplies. Acidic conditions decrease neutralization from natural sources such as lakes, streams, and soil with high alkaline content. As a result, forests are unable to neutralize the acidic air coming from industrial emissions. This weakens trees’ defenses against disease and other threats such as insects.
What are the Causes of Acid Rain?
Acid rain is caused by the burning of fossil fuels such as coal, oil, and natural gas. These produce sulfur dioxide and nitrogen dioxide when they are burned. These gases are carried in the atmosphere and are then deposited onto earth in the form of acid rain. The burning of forests also releases large amounts of carbon dioxide and nitrous oxide into the air which causes acid rain.
How acid rain affects organisms that live in the water
Acid rain particularly affects Organisms that live in the water because the water is readily available for them to live. When rainwater with high levels of acid is let out into a body of water, the water absorbs some of that acidity. As time goes on, the water’s acidity will gradually increase until it is equal to that of the rainwater.
This is caused by the reaction between the water and acids in the rainwater. This reaction is also referred to as “acidification”. The types of organisms that live in water are very sensitive to shifts in the pH level of their environment. A pH level of 7 is considered neutral; many organisms have evolved to thrive in neutral water. However, when the pH level of the water shifts towards the acidic end of the scale, many of these organisms are put at risk.
The Importance of pH in an Environment
The pH level in a water body is an important indicator of the health of that water. It can tell us what happens to the water during different seasons. In addition to this, it can also tell us how much pollution the water has absorbed. The pH level of water can be measured using a tool called a pH probe. This probe is lowered into the water until it reaches the bed of the water body. It then measures the pH level of the water at this depth.
The pH level of water is measured on a scale from 0 to 14. Neutral water has a pH level of 7. The pH level below 7 is considered acidic, and above 7 is considered basic. The pH level of water is primarily determined by the amount of carbon dioxide in it. This level is usually highest in the summer and lowest in the winter.
How can we fix this?
There are different ways through which we can combat the harmful effects of acid rain. The first method is to prevent it from forming in the first place. This would mean finding ways to reduce the amount of sulfur dioxide and nitrogen dioxide in the atmosphere. This could be done through the government imposing strict regulations on the use of polluting materials.
Another way would be to develop technology to remove these harmful particles from the air before they can reach the ground. Another way, albeit a very long-term one, would be to reduce the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. This would help to reduce the amount of nitrogen dioxide in the atmosphere. It would take a long time to have an impact on the overall levels of acidity in the atmosphere since this gas acts as a catalyst for the reaction between the water and the acids in the rain.
So now you know that Acid rain doesn’t just affect things like stone buildings and wooden outdoor furniture. It has much more serious implications for the environment and the organisms that live in it. Organisms that live in the water are particularly vulnerable to the effects of acid rain, as the water readily absorbs the acidity and changes its pH level.
Deposition of acid rain is not a new phenomenon, but the increased levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere due to the burning of fossil fuels have caused levels of acidity to rise. For people living in urban areas, acid rain is a daily reality. It is so dangerous that it can corrode metals like iron and steel over time.