Lakes and forests in the Northeast are not recovering
from acid rain, according to a new study.
Program script for Monday, September 10, 2001
By Steve Pomplun
Article Courtesy of EarthWatch Radio
The Clean Air Act amendments of 1990 forced power plants
to cut their sulfur emissions. The federal law targeted
pollutants that form acid rain, which damages lakes, streams
and forests. But these sensitive ecosystems are not recovering
from the harm already done, according to a new study.
Scientists at the Hubbard Brook Research Foundation
in New Hampshire say acid rain damage to the region is
much worse than was known when the law was passed in 1990.
They say deeper emission cuts are needed to help the Northeast
The study, which was published in the journal BioScience,
looked at acid rain's effect on soil, water and trees.
It found that soils across the Northeast have lost large
amounts of calcium, an important nutrient. And acid rain
sets off a chemical reaction in which aluminum in the
soil ends up poisoning plants.
The scientists also found that waters in the region
remain acidified, including 41 percent of the lakes in
New York's Adirondacks. Fish and other aquatic species
have not recovered.
And forests continue to suffer from the effects of the
acid. Trees are more susceptible to insect damage and
disease, and they can't tolerate weather extremes as well
as healthy trees can.
The Hubbard Brook report calls for deeper cuts in emissions
from power plants, which produce the largest share of
the sulfur dioxide pollution in the United States. Plants
in the Midwest are blamed for most of the damage to the
The scientists say an additional 80 percent reduction
in sulfur emissions would be required for lakes and forests
to recover over the next 25 years.