Acid rain is a result of air pollution. When any type of fuel is burnt, lots of different chemicals are produced.

Lakes and rivers

It is in aquatic habitats that the effects of acid rain are most obvious. Acid rain runs off the land and ends up in streams, lakes and marshes - the rain also falls directly on these areas.

As the acidity of a lake increases, the water becomes clearer and the numbers of fish and other water animals decline. Some species of plant and animal are better able to survive in acidic water than others. Freshwater shrimps, snails, mussels are the most quickly affected by acidification followed by fish such as minnows, salmon and roach. The roe and fry (eggs and young) of the fish are the worst affected as the acidity of the water can prevent eggs from hatching properly, can cause deformity in young fish which also struggle to take in oxygen.

The acidity of the water does not just affect species directly, it also causes toxic substances such as aluminium to be released into the water from the soil, harming fish and other aquatic animals.

Lakes, rivers and marshes each have their own fragile ecosystem with many different species of plants and animals all depending on each other to survive. If a species of fish disappears, the animals which feed on it will gradually disappear too. If the extinct fish used to feed on a particular species of large insect, that insect population will start to grow, which in turn will affect the smaller insects or plankton on which the larger insect feeds.

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