What Does Acid Rain Do to the Environment?

Acid rain causes a number of ecological effects, including the acidification of lakes, streams, wetlands and other aquatic landscapes. Acid rain also accelerates the decay of buildings, destroys trees at high elevations and damages forest soils.

In addition to the sulfuric and nitric acid from the precipitation itself, acid rain also releases aluminum into aquatic systems from its interaction with soils in a watershed. When acid rain flows through soils in a watershed, it releases aluminum. When it flows through nearby shorelines and soil, aluminum is absorbed into the soil. The influx of acid rain and aluminum makes waters toxic to most aquatic organisms, including fish, clams and crayfish.

Acid rain also causes severe damage to trees and forests at higher elevations because it strips the soil of vital nutrients and releases aluminum, which impedes trees from absorbing water. Acid rain reduces the ability of trees and plants to withstand disease, insects and cold temperatures, and it may also affect reproduction in trees.

Acid rain refers to precipitation with high levels of sulfuric and nitric acids. It occurs from natural processes, such as volcanic eruptions and rotting vegetation, but more frequently, it is due to the burning of fossil fuels. The only way to curb the effects of acid rain is to limit the release of fossil fuels and other pollutants that cause it.