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What does acid rain do?

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Quick Answer

Acid rain threatens and damages the ecosystem. It can stunt the growth of trees, change the acidity of the water and causes toxic substances to be released from the soil, harming many aquatic animals and living things. It also weakens the materials and hastens the natural erosion of concrete structures.

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The effects of acid rain are more palpable in aquatic environments, such as marshes, rivers, lakes and streams. Most surface waters have a pH level between 6 to 8; when acid rain falls directly on the water or runs off from the land and reaches the streams, the water's acidity increases. A body of water with a low pH level cannot sustain new life. Marshes, with their fragile ecosystems, may suffer most from the loss of a species of fish, as the animals in such ecosystems depend on each other to thrive.

Acid rain also prevents plants and trees from growing healthily. When acid rain falls down on the leaves, it wears off the protective coating of the leaves and prevents them from photosynthesizing properly. As the acidic rain trickles down to the ground, it activates harmful substances, such as aluminium, into the soil and then finds its way into streams and lakes. Acid rain also dissolves the nutrients and minerals in the soil that help promote plant and tree growth.

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