Around the world, rain replenishes the driest of environments leading to lush green areas. These areas contribute to the healthiness of the world. We are entirely connected to the rain for food production, oxygen and carbon dioxide regulation, as well as, a large source of drinking water. So, what happen when the rain becomes poisonous? More important why would the rain become poisonous? We as humans would probably lose our minds and think the sky is falling, or that it was just another made up plot by politicians. This is not just a plot to a bad horror movie from the sixties or a conspiracy theory, but the reality of many organisms living in areas that have acid rain and acid fog.
Most signs of acid rain are seen on buildings and statues. The melted faces of marble show years of acid rain fall on out society with out much regulation until recently. But where does it come from? Naturally, volcanoes can cause acid rain after eruptions. However, quite a bit of acid rain and acid fog is also found in other parts of the world not located near volcanoes. The EPA, National Geographic and USGS all agree that a portion of acid rain and acid fog comes from industrial air pollutants.
Pollutants such as sulfur oxide and nitrogen oxide(s) can be found air exhausts from coal burning industries, oil industries, and combustion engines. Once in the atmosphere, these compounds bind to water particles causing the ph to become acidic. Pure water has a ph of 7, whereas acid rain has a ph of 5-4. This is almost acidic as orange juice. To humans this may not cause direct harm skin but hugely impacts the drinking water and food harvesting. As well as, could potentially cause harm to niche organisms that all living beings rely on, such as phytoplankton. Phytoplankton and other photosynthetic microorganisms help contribute the largest portion of breathable oxygen to our atmosphere. Areas with high density for photosynthetic organisms are largely susceptible to acid rain and acid fog.
A large region of the Eastern United States is made up of the Appalachian Forest as well as other smaller forests. The Appalachians cover 159,000 Km2 (61,500 miles) stretching from lower New York to central Alabama, running through a total of 12 of the Eastern States. The forest is considered a temperate broadleaf and mixed forest biome, which means that it a mix of coniferous trees, such as pines and evergreens, and broadleaf trees, such as oaks, maples, and birches. The Appalachians are known to be one of the most biodiverse biomes in the world.
Unfortunately, the Appalachians are also home to a large coal mining industry. Two thirds of the coal mined in the areas, between Maryland and Pennsylvania to West Virginia and Eastern Kentucky, is from underground mining. The rest is made up of surface mining and mountain topping. Other industries such as metal and chemical refining as also found in Kentucky and Tennessee. Many companies of the last few decades have been subject to many investigations and lawsuits by environmentalist and the EPA.
Once the pollutants are released into the atmosphere, they can be carried hundred of kilometers (miles) before effecting the environment. Acid rain can be carried by normal weather patterns so pinpointing the source may be difficult. However, we can estimate the area at which the contamination began.
There are many studies of the effects of acid rain and acid fog on the environment. The EPA claims that acid rain leaches aluminum from the soil and removes minerals and nutrients needed for survival of plant species. They also note that acidic fog can cause a burning effect to photosynthetic leaves with lowers the over all metabolic functions. Forest around the world show effects of acid rain. Jezera Mountains in the Czech Republic and the Spruces Forest of Poland both are known to have effects. The trees are burned bare. Evergreens with no needles. Broad leaf trees with out leaves. A barren tree graveyard of half living trees, suffering a slow death.
to be continued in part 2