Question: What effec does acid rain have on the eco-system in terms of being recycled through the soil and then absorbing in the plat matter.

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  1. Acid rain is a bit of a localised effect caused by very high atmospheric pollutant levels. If it occurs at low enough levels that the plants do absorb it and live, then it gets recycled. If the levels are high enough that the plants die, then there is a cascade failure of the ecosystem as the plants form the bottom of the trophic pyramid.


  2. Acid rain is formed when the pollutants Sulphur dioxide or nitrogen oxide are released into the air and these chemicals then react with the water molecules in the atmosphere (clouds) to produce acid.

    Have you learned about pH? pH is a measure that we use to determine the level of hydrogen ions in a liquid, and this tells us how acidic the liquid is… pH is measure on a scale of 1 to 14 where 1-7 are said to be acidic and 7-14 are basic or alkaline. So for example the acid in your stomach to digest food has a pH of 1 (the highest level acid). Bleach and some cleaners have a pH level of 13 or 14.

    In the natural environment the best pH level for plant and animals growth can be different.
    The natural levels of pH in creeks and dams is between 6.0 and 8.0
    The best level of pH for plant growth in soil is pH 5.5 to 7.0

    If the levels go outside these ranges then the types of animals that can live there will change. There are animals plants that have adapted to live in pH levels outside of the ranges I said above.

    but as you move further and further towards pH 1 and pH 14, so the extreme levels of pH, then all the animals and plants die except for bacteria known as extremophiles. These are bacteria that can live in extreme conditions. (extreme – “phile” means ‘loves’ so this is an animal that love extreme conditions).

    Acidophile – An organism with optimal growth at pH levels of 3 or below
    Alkaliphile – An organism with optimal growth at pH levels of 9 or above

    Anyway I’ve become side tracked, your question – the effects of acid rain will be quite devastating, first the water and soil will slowly increase in pH and then plants will start to die. Animals will also die or move to other areas. eventually there will only be animals and plants that can handle pH levels outside the natural range. If the pollution continues and more acid rain falls then eventually there will be no life except for the extremophile bacteria covering the water and in the soil.

    To see an example of an extremophile, this is a salt loving bacteria in a rock pool at the beach. It makes the water look pink or purple…


  3. Simon and Shona have answered this question really well. As Shona mentioned, some species can tolerate acidic environments better than others (e.g. Acidophiles). However, in an interconnected ecosystem there are many species that cannot tolerate this, and what impacts these species eventually impacts many more throughout the food web.

    The only way to stop acid rain is to reduce the release of the pollutants that cause it. This means burning fewer fossil fuels, but even if we do this it could still take many years for harmful effects to disappear. Especially if the acidity is very high.

    Here’s a picture of what happens to forests after acid rain:


  4. I think these guys know a lot more about acid rain than me! They answer this question very well. All I know is that it can be caused by either man-made pollution in the atmosphere or volcanic events (chemicals mixing with the clouds) and it causes the pH in soils and rivers to become more acidic which means plants cannot grow and animals may die. It also strips soils of important minerals which causes even more damage and more plants to die. Sorry, I don’t know too much about this subject! 🙂



  1. Wow! @Blaire @shona They are very amazing pictures! The trees and water look quite pink!