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Acid Rain

Water is a crucial part of maintaining life on this earth, it is home to millions of organisms, provides minerals to countless plants, and is the heart of every ecosystem. Water is cycled and deposited as rain to provide habitats with fresh water, but with a mix of sulfuric and nitric acids, the fresh water in the clouds can be polluted to become acid rain.


Such acidic pollutants rise into the atmosphere and react with water, oxygen, and other chemicals to form acidic rain, which in this case, pours down to the earth as wet deposition in the forms of rain, sleet, snow, and even fog. Dry deposition is another form of acid deposition, in which gases and dust particles become acidic. Both wet and dry deposition can be carried by the wind, for very long distances, in which they can become even more acidic.


A very small portion of these contaminants are produced naturally through decaying vegetation and volcanoes. The majority of the pollutants arise from man-made sources, primarily emitted as sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide from coal and oil burning in power plants, smoke from motor vehicles, and factory discharges of pollution.


The acids produced from these chemicals are detrimental to the environment as they diminish countless facets of natural habitats. Acid rain most largely impacts the aquatic ecosystems which depend on regular rain to replenish lakes, streams, marshes, and other bodies of water which are habitats to numerous aquatic wildlife, but also provide nourishment to surrounding mammals and vegetation. As the pH of the bodies of water is lowered, many species of fish and insects die or are unable to lay eggs, which affects the food supply for predators higher in the chain.


Furthermore, acid rain deposits aluminum in the soil and eradicates the minerals and nutrients which are necessary for plants to grow. Due to emissions from Midwestern coal-burning power plants, the Eastern United States was subject to some of the highest levels of acid rain worldwide. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency lists that 90% of freshwater streams in New Jersey are still acidic to this day because of acid rain.


Perhaps one of the most affected regions is the Black Triangle, covering parts of the Czech Republic, Germany, and Poland, this area was exposed to heavy acidic rain that wiped out entire forests and acidified lakes and streams. Acid deposition in the Jizera Mountains of the Czech Republic led to a decrease in pH of surface waters and decline of life in streams and reservoirs, and managed to destroy entire ecosystems that were present in that expanse of natural land. The Black Triangle accrued its situation through years of air pollution because of rapid industrialization after WWII.

Similar patterns of industrialization can be seen in Asian countries like India, China, Japan, and Taiwan where the air contents are much more polluted, and have caused the rain to be more acidic.


One way to prevent another Black Triangle from occurring in these regions or any other industrializing nation, is to deduct the sulfur and nitrogen concentrations before they collectively rise into the atmosphere. Fuel and smoke are the main catalysts for acid rain, and need to be controlled in order to prevent further destruction of the environment. Modifying power plants to burn less coal and using alternative green energy sources in vehicles and power supplies are a few of many ways to constrain further acid rain.


We as humans need to recognize how our way of living has adversely affected the environment and has caused thousands of species to lose their lives and homes, and we have to collectively take initiative to restore mother nature before it's too late.


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