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Acid rain 5

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Acid rain 5


This report involves a well description on acid rain as well as a focus on acid rain in eastern Canada. This report contains a very helpful basic background on acid rain as well as a questionnaire. It involves an annual report on the Federal-Provincial Agreements, sulphur dioxide emissions in the seven most eastern provinces, trends in acid deposition in the Atlantic provinces from 1980-1994, as well as acid precipitation in Kejimkujik, Nova Scotia. It also includes data tables, graphs and interesting facts concerning acid rain.


This report is on acid rain and identifies the harmful effect it has on almost everything such as aquatic ecosystems, forests, farming, and even human health. It shows the sulphur dioxide emissions in the seven most eastern provinces along with their limits and how much sulphur dioxide they emitted in 1980, 1990, 1994, 1995, and 1996. It also contains sulphur emissions from major sources from four Canadian provinces as well as sulphur dioxide emissions from electric power generators in three Canadian provinces. There are also some interesting questions and answers and facts are included also.

This information was organized from various websites. It also contains information from a newspaper article about a new monitoring site for acid rain in Irish Cove located in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia.


The atmosphere, unpolluted, is the means of life on earth. It is a thin layer of gases which surrounds our planet. It is known that without the atmosphere our planet would be inhabitable, but we continue to put numerous amounts of toxic waste into it. The burning of fossils fuels, produces gases that cause acid rain. Acid rain is harmful to forests, lakes, rivers, and any wildlife that is located in these areas. High standards of living, which developed countries are accustomed to, depends upon fossil fuels to withhold these standards. Therefore, they cause the pollutants that cause acid rain.


Acid rain comes in all forms of precipitation. Besides rain, it can be mist, snow, and dry deposition. Pollutants deposited on the environment before they are absorbed by the moisture in the atmosphere is called dry deposition.


In measuring acid rain, the pH scale is used. This scale measures the acidity of acid rain. A measurement of seven is neutral, less than seven is acidic, and more than seven is basic.


Carbon dioxide in the atmosphere causes rain to become naturally acidic because it absorbs the carbon dioxide and makes a weak carbonic acid with a pH between five and six. Burning of fossil fuels causes sulphur dioxide and nitrogen, which happens to be the major causes of acid rain. These gases are emitted into the atmosphere where they are absorbed by the moisture and become weak sulphuric and nitric acids, with a pH of around three. Natural gas contains little or no sulphur and does not cause much pollution.


Sulphur dioxide is produced by coal fired power stations. Vehicles, especially cars, are the major producers of the nitrogen oxides in the atmosphere. Some oxides come from the vehicle exhaust alone, but others form when the exhaust gases react with the air.

Exhaust gases also react with strong sunlight to produce poisonous ozone gas that damages plant growth and in some cases, human health.

Sulphur is one of the chemical elements that make up the earth. It can come from volcanic eruptions, sea spray, and tiny sea creatures called plankton. In the world as a whole almost 50 percent of sulphur dioxide in the air comes from natural sources of sulphur, like the ones previously mentioned.


The Built Environment

Acid rain corrodes metal and stone work. It causes major threats to older historical buildings.


The more acidic the land becomes, the less likely the land can be used for growing crops and yields.

Trees and Forests

Sulphur dioxide interferes with the process of photo synthesis. Coniferous trees are at risk from acid rain because they do not shed the needles at the end of each year. The needles on a tree that has been affected by acid rain often last only two or three years, while healthy tree needles last up to seven years.

Young trees in soils affected by acid rain often show abnormally rapid growth. The nitrogen from the acid rain acts as a fertilizer. The root systems, however, are not developed as well as trees that have to collect their nutrients from a larger area and the trees are more easily blown over. Also, they are short of other essential nutrients and the wood can be very soft making.

When the soil becomes acid, toxic minerals like aluminum and cadmium are washed out by water passing through the soil. These minerals are taken by the trees causing their growth to suffer.

Water Courses and Lakes

Water courses and lakes are affected by the acid rain that falls directly into them and from water that runs into them. The problem is worst in spring when snow melts. The pollution build up over the winter period is suddenly released as an "acid surge" just at the time when many young fish and insects are most vulnerable. A healthy lake has a pH of about 6.5 and supports a rich variety of wildlife. As a lake becomes more acidified, the fish population declines along with the birds that feed on the fish. They are all dependent, upon one another in a complex food web, for a while, there is an increase in the number of insects in the lake they are not eaten by fish. The number of species declines as the acidity of the lake increases. The lake becomes dead when the pH reaches a level of about 4.5.

Other Factors Contributing to Acidification of the Environment

Farming and forestry can also increase acidification. When plants grow they take nutrients from the soil that causes the soil to become more acidic, but when they die and rot back into the soil the nutrients are replaced and the soil becomes less acidic. The removal of a whole tree can be equivalent to about 60 years of acid rain because it does not get a chance to rot and replenish the nutrients. When the trunk is only taken it is equivalent to about 20 years of acid rain. Areas that are prepared for forestry are often drained and deep ploughed which allows more oxygen into the soil, therefore the minerals become oxidized and the soil becomes acidic.


1) Explain dry acid deposition.

Sometimes the acids can be transformed chemically into sulphur dioxide gases into sulphur and nitrogen salts in which they are dry in this form. They cause the same damage as when they land dissolved in rain or snow. In this form they can also do internal damage to plants as they are taken up from the soil.

2) Is acid deposition always wet?

No. The acids can be transformed chemically into sulphur dioxide gas or into sulphur and nitrogen salts. In this form they are deposited "dry", causing the same damage as when they land dissolved in rain or snow. In this form they can also do internal damage to plants as they are taken up from the soil.

3) How does acid deposition affect aquatic ecosystems?

The interactions between living organisms and the chemistry of their aquatic habitats are extremely complex. If the number of one species or group of species changes in response to acidification, then the ecosystem of the entire water body is likely to be affected through the predator-prey relationships of the food web. At first, the effects of acid deposition may be almost imperceptible, but as acidity increases, more and more species of plants and animals decline or disappear.

' As the water pH approaches 6.0, crustaceans, insects, and some plankton species begin to disappear.

' As pH approaches 5.0, major changes in the makeup of the plankton community occur, less desirable species of mosses and the progressive loss of some fish populations is likely, with the more highly valued species being generally the least tolerant of acidity.

' Below pH of 5.0, the water is largely devoid of fish, the bottom is covered with undecayed material, and the nearshore areas may be dominated by mosses.

' Terrestrial animals dependent on aquatic ecosystems are also affected. Waterfowl, for example, depend on aquatic organisms for nourishment and nutrients. As these food sources are reduced or eliminated, the quality of habitat declines and the reproductive success of the birds is affected.

4) How does acid deposition affect terrestrial plant life?

Both natural vegetation and crops can be affected.

' It can alter the protective waxy surface of leaves, lowering disease resistance.

' It may inhibit plant germination and reproduction.

' It accelerates soil weathering and removal of nutrients.

' It makes some toxic elements, such as aluminum, more soluble. High aluminum concentrations in soil can prevent the uptake and use of nutrients by ...

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