why does acid rain cause plants and trees to die
Acid rain has been an environmental buzzword since the 1980s, even though it started falling from the sky and eating through lawn furniture and ornaments as early as the 1950s. Although common acid rain isn t acidic enough to burn skin, the effects of acid rain on plant growth can be dramatic. If you live in an acid rain-prone area, read on to learn about safeguarding plants from acid rain. What is Acid Rain? Acid rain forms when sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide react with chemicals like water, oxygen and
in the atmosphere to form sulfuric acid and nitric acid. Water containing these acidic compounds falls back to the earth as rain, harming plants and other immobile objects below. Although the acid from acid rain is weak, normally no more acidic than, it can seriously alter the environment, damaging plants and aquatic ecosystems. Does Acid Rain Kill Plants? This is a straightforward question with a not very straightEnforward answer. Acid rain and plant damage go hand in hand in areas prone to this type of pollution, but the changes to a plant s environment and tissues are gradual.
Eventually, a plant exposed to acid rain will die, but unless your plants are incredibly sensitive, the acid rain unusually potent and frequent or you re a very bad gardener, the damage is not fatal. The way that acid rain damages plants is very subtle. Over time, the acidic water alters the pH of the soil where your plants are growing, binding and dissolving vital minerals and carrying them away. As the soil pH falls, your plants will suffer increasingly obvious symptoms, including yellowing between the veins on their leaves. Rain that falls on leaves can eat away the outer waxy layer of tissue that protects the plant from drying out, leading to the destruction of the chloroplasts that drive. When a lot of leaves are damaged at once, your plant may become very stressed and attract a host of pests and diseases organisms. The best way to protect plants from acid rain is to prevent rain from falling on them, but with larger trees and shrubs this may be impossible.
In fact, many experts recommend planting more tender specimens under large trees to protect them from damage. Where trees aren t available, moving these delicate plants to gazebos or covered porches will do. When all else fails, some thick plastic draped over stakes surrounding the plant can hold off acid damage, provided that you place and remove the covers promptly. The soil is another matter entirely. If you live in an area where acid rain is common, every six to 12 months is a good idea. Frequent soil tests will alert you to problems in the soil so you can add extra minerals, nutrients or lime when necessary. Staying one step ahead of acid rain is vital to keeping your plants healthy and happy. How Acid Rain Harms Trees Acid rain does not usually kill trees directly. Instead, it is more likely to weaken trees by damaging their leaves, limiting the.
Acid rain does not usually kill trees directly. Instead, it is more likely to weaken trees by damaging their leaves, limiting the nutrients available to them, or exposing them to toxic substances slowly released from the soil. Quite often, injury or death of trees is a result of these effects of acid rain in combination with one or more additional threats. Scientists know that acidic water dissolves the nutrients and helpful minerals in the soil and then washes them away before trees and other plants can use them to grow. At the same time, acid rain causes the release of substances that are toxic to trees and plants, such as aluminum, into the soil. Scientists believe that this combination of loss of soil nutrients and increase of toxic aluminum may be one way that acid rain harms trees. Such substances also wash away in the runoff and are carried into streams, rivers, and lakes. More of these substances are released from the soil when the rainfall is more acidic.
However, trees can be damaged by acid rain even if the soil is well buffered. Forests in high mountain regions often are exposed to greater amounts of acid than other forests because they tend to be surrounded by acidic clouds and fog that are more acidic than rainfall. Scientists believe that when leaves are frequently bathed in this acid fog, essential nutrients in their leaves and needles are stripped away. This loss of nutrients in their foliage makes trees more susceptible to damage by other environmental factors, particularly cold winter weather. Acid rain can harm other plants in the same way it harms trees. Although damaged by other air pollutants such as ground level ozone, food crops are not usually seriously affected because farmers frequently add fertilizers to the soil to replace nutrients that have washed away. They may also add crushed limestone to the soil. Limestone is an alkaline material and increases the ability of the soil to act as a buffer against acidity.
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