Acid Rain And Geology

The impact of acid rain on the environment depends not only on the level of acidity in the rain, but also on the nature of the environment itself. Areas underlain by granitic or quartzitic bedrock, for example, are particularly susceptible to damage, since the soils and water are already acidic, and lack the ability to 'buffer' or neutralize additional acidity from the precipitation. Acid levels therefore rise, the environmental balance is disturbed, and serious ecological damage is the inevitable result. In contrast, areas which are geologically basic—underlain by limestone or chalk for example—are much less sensitive, and may even benefit from the additional acidity. The highly alkaline soils and water of these areas ensure that the acid added to the environment by the rain is very effectively neutralized. In areas covered by glacial drift, or some other unconsolidated deposit, the susceptibility of the environment to damage by acid rain will be determined by the nature of the superficial material rather than by the composition of the bedrock. In theory, it is important to establish background levels of acidity or alkalinity, so that the vulnerability of the environment to acidification can be estimated; in reality, this is seldom possible, since, in most cases, environmental conditions had already been altered by acid rain, by the time monitoring was introduced.

The areas at greatest risk from acid rain in the northern hemisphere are the pre-Cambrian Shield areas of Canada and Scandinavia, where the acidity of the rocks is reflected in highly acidic soils and water. The folded mountain structures of eastern Canada and the United States, Scotland, Germany and Norway are also vulnerable (see Figure 4.3). Most of these areas have already suffered, but the potential for further damage is high. Should the present emission levels of SO2 and NOX be maintained for the next ten to twenty years, it is likely that susceptible areas, presently little affected by acid rain—in western North America and the Arctic for example—would also suffer damage as the level of atmospheric acidity rises.

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  • reeta
    Are high ozone levels related to acid rain?
    7 years ago

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