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Acid Deposition

1) What are the major causes of acid deposition?

2) How are lakes impacted by acid deposition?

3) Why are some lakes more sensitive to acid deposition than others?

Acid rain is the commonly used term to describe the many ways that acid falls out of the atmosphere

Better term is acid deposition because it is not just rain (also snow, hail, fog and dry deposition)

Measure acidity as concentration of H+ pH = - log [H+] pH = log [1/H+]

pH ranges from 0 to 14

7 = neutral < 7 = acidic > 7 = alkaline

Normal rainwater is pH 5.5-6 Acid rain (pH as low as 4.2) comes from the combustion of fossil fuels Acid Rain linked to coal burning in England in 1852 US and Canadian governments officially recognized effects in 1986

Primarily caused by airborne pollutants

sulfur dioxide (SO2) sulfuric acid (H2SO4)

nitrogen oxides (NO and NO2) Nitric Acid (HNO3)

Once produced, the SO42- and the NOx have an atmospheric residence time of ~1-3 days In that time, they can travel 400-1,200 km In North America and Europe, sulfur emissions more than doubled between 1900 and 1980 Nitrogen emission are harder to quantify, but may be as high as 20x the 1900 level

Prevailing winds in both North America and Europe tend to be from the southwest

Lakes in Canada, New England and Scandinavia are highly impacted

Estimates: Canada Sweden Adirondack Region (NY)

>14,000 20,000 500

annual mean deposition pH 1980

Annual mean deposition pH 1996

What are the effects of acid deposition on aquatic habitats?

Why are some lakes more sensitive to acid deposition than others?

The Bicarbonate Buffer System Lakes that have a lot of carbonate can resist changes in pH with the addition of acids

Ability to resist changes in pH with respect to the addition of acid is called Alkalinity or

Acid neutralizing capacity-ANC

How much DIC is available in the lake?

ANC is measured by titrating with acid until the pH changes to 4.5 The more acid needed to reach 4.5, the more buffered a lake is against changes in pH Recall equations from lecture on DIC
Carbonic Acid Bicarbonate Carbonate

CO2 + H2O


HCO3- + H+

CO32- +2 H+

Some lakes get a lot of DIC from the watershed (limestone (CaCO3), Calcium bicarbonate (Ca(HCO3)2)

Lakes in limestone regions have high ANC and are therefore not as impacted by acid deposition. Lakes on granite are highly impacted.

How does Acid Rain impact lakes? Experimental Lakes AreaDavid Schindler Whole-lake acidification of Lake 223

In 2 years, added enough concentrated sulfuric acid to equal 18 years of acid deposition in eastern Ontario

Started experiment in 1976, with a pH of 6.8

Schindler et al. 1985

6.13 (1977)

shift in phytoplankton assemblage

5.93 (1978)

Mysis relicta (7 million to 0)

Fathead minnows did not reproduce More phytoplankton change 1 zooplankton species lost (copepod)

5.64 (1979)

Increase in filamentous algae Softer shells on crayfish Minnow and sculpin decline Increase in pearl dace Crayfish having problems More zooplankton losses More zooplankton changes Most fish not reproducing

5.59 (1980)

5.02 (1981)

Stop adding acid in 1982

No reproduction of fish, no crayfish.

Low pH causes some of these impacts directly

Also liberates metals such as aluminum, cadmium, mercury, lead

These metals are toxic to aquatic organisms

Acidification of Little Rock Lake, WI Divided one lake with a curtain classes/ce453/proj1.htm

1983-1984 studied both basins

Added sulfuric acid until 1990 to drop pH to ~4.7

At least two solutions to the problems of acid deposition:

Liming addition of calcium carbonate. Works, but is expensive and only a short term solution Long-term solution reduce emissions and let lakes recover naturally Chemical recovery much faster than biological

Concepts to know

Why are lakes in the northeastern United States, much of Canada and Scandinavia so impacted by acid deposition? What is ANC? What is the bicarbonate buffer cycle? What are the direct and indirect effects of acid deposition on aquatic habitats? What are the solutions counteracting the effects of acid deposition?