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Effects of Acid Rain

Acid rain is an international problem. Emissions resulting from one country's activities may be swept by weather systems to deposit acid rain up to several thousand kilometers away. Weak acids are formed when precipitation encounters sulfur and nitrogen compounds in the air, thus forming sulfuric and nitric acids.

Consequences of industrial activities that large quantities of sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides are introduced into the atmosphere. These compounds are distributed by rain, sleet, snow and dew often causing damage to trees, structures, roads and metal equipment. Acid rain or acid deposition is referred as to the various ways the accumulation of acid falls from the atmosphere in wet or dry forms.

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Effects on Humans

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The acid rain problem is on the evil in India and is fast spreading in the developing world. The most worrying aspect is that the area affected by acid deposition has been increasing day by day. Acid rain causes respiratory problems in humans, especially to people suffering from asthma. It may cause throat infection, dry cough and severe headaches. 

When acid rain gets absorbed by plants and animals directly or indirectly the toxicity enters the food chain causing brain and kidney problems. Acid rain risk assessments became more adequate over time, but still were deficient in many areas. Acid rain risk assessments become more and more technically sound as the instruments they used became more efficient and effective.

Effects on Plants and Animals

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Acid rain causes progressive death of young shoots, leaves turn yellow and fall off, fine root structures are damaged and the whole tree eventually dies. Similarly, animal life is also affected by acid rain.

Acid rain has been shown to adversely affect photosynthesis by terrestrial plants. The production of carbohydrates, which are among the chief components of the edible portions of the plants is often suppressed when plants are grown in an acid rain environment. Furthermore, acid is known to cause bleaching of chlorophyll the principal light absorbing pigment in photosynthesis. Whether such bleaching has occurred to a significant extent due to the effects of acid rain is to known, but such bleaching may in part explain the reduction in carbohydrate production observed in crops exposed to acid rain.

Eeffects on Forest

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Acid deposition contributes to forest degradation by impairing trees growth and increasing their susceptibility to winter injury, insect infestation and drought. It also causes leaching and depletion of natural nutrients in forest soil. Acid deposition contributes to forest degradation by impairing tree's growth and increasing their susceptibility to winter injury, insect infestation and drought.

It must be emphasized that acid rain effects are site specific, depending on the amount of acid input and on the vegetation, soils and nutrient status of the site receiving such inputs. Forest ecosystems in general cannot be expected to respond to acid rain in any single way. Acid rain, aluminum concentrations and forest decline, but acid rain remains one of several working hypotheses under investigations.

Effects on Aquatic System

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Many bacteria and blue green algae are killed due to the acidification disrupting the whole ecological balance. Acid rain killed fishes in lakes and destroyed trees. Acid rain creates complex problems and their impacts are far reaching. A significant reduction in fish population, accompanied by a decrease in the variety of species in the food chain have been observed. Acid rain makes the water of lakes and rivers acidic leading to destruction of aquatic plants and animals.

Acid rain causes a number of complications in ponds, rivers and lakes where it accumulates as acid snow. In summer rapid snow melt gives a jolt of acid water to lakes. This acid jolt is most damaging to young fish, algae, insects and food chains. Although acid rain has been shown to affect individual components of the terrestrial ecosystem, it has not been proven to affect that ecosystem to the same extent that it clearly affects aquatic systems.

Effects on Buildings

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Acid rain destroys monuments and buildings, especially those made of white marble. This badly affects the cultural heritage structures of India. One rather well documented effect of acid deposition is its effect on building components and stone statues SO2 for example, transforms calcite in stone into gypsum which is much more soluble in water than calcite. A crust gypsum and other compound forms on the exterior of the stone and then rapidly washes away in the next rain.

The exposed fresh stone is then subject to further attack. Such deterioration causes a loss in the structural integrity of stone buildings and causes stone statues to lose their identity. Steel protected by Z galvanizing is subject to corrosion because the SO2 reacts with the Zn in the protective covering. Exposure to acid rain also has an adverse effect on the paint. Oil based and automobile paints are evidently particularly vulnerable.

Effects on Soil

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Acidification of soils has a number of effects. There is a loss of the base cations that buffer the acidity. These include plant nutrients such as calcium and magnesium, which may have important consequences for plant growth. In acid soils aluminum takes over as the main buffering cation. However, aluminum is a toxin to both plants and animals. 

Soils do have a natural buffering capacity against acidity. Their slow weathering releases base cations that neutralize the acid. However, the rate depends on the nature of the minerals present. Thus soils on limestone have an almost infinite capacity to deal with deposited acidity, while those derived from granite have very little capacity.
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