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Title: Acid rain in China. Rapid industrialization has put citizens and ecosystems at risk

Abstract

Acid rain emerged as an important environmental problem in China in the late 1970s. Many years of record economic growth have been accompanied by increased energy demand, greater coal combustion, and larger emissions of pollutants. As a result of significant emissions and subsequent deposition of sulfur, widespread acid rain is observed in southern and southwestern China. In fact, the deposition of sulfur is in some places higher than what was reported from the 'black triangle' in central Europe in the early 1980s. In addition, nitrogen is emitted from agriculture, power production, and a rapidly increasing number of cars. As a result, considerable deposition of pollutants occurs in forested areas previously thought to be pristine. Little is known about the effects of acid deposition on terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems in China. This article presents the current situation and what to expect in the future, largely on the basis of results from a five-year Chinese-Norwegian cooperative project. In the years ahead, new environmental challenges must be expected if proper countermeasures are not put into place. 31 refs., 4 figs.

Authors:
; ;  [1]
  1. and others [Norwegian Institute for Water Research and University of Oslo, Oslo (Norway)
Publication Date:
OSTI Identifier:
20701137
Resource Type:
Journal Article
Resource Relation:
Journal Name: Environmental Science and Technology; Journal Volume: 40; Journal Issue: 2
Country of Publication:
United States
Language:
English
Subject:
54 ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES; 01 COAL, LIGNITE, AND PEAT; ACID RAIN; CHINA; DEPOSITION; NORWAY; ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACTS; TERRESTRIAL ECOSYSTEMS; AQUATIC ECOSYSTEMS; ACIDIFICATION; COAL; SULFUR DIOXIDE; EMISSION; PH VALUE; POLLUTION SOURCES; FORESTS; AIR POLLUTION MONITORING; AMMONIA; NITRATES; HEALTH HAZARDS

Citation Formats

Thorjoern Larssen, Espen Lydersen, and Dagang Tang. Acid rain in China. Rapid industrialization has put citizens and ecosystems at risk. United States: N. p., 2006. Web.
Thorjoern Larssen, Espen Lydersen, & Dagang Tang. Acid rain in China. Rapid industrialization has put citizens and ecosystems at risk. United States.
Thorjoern Larssen, Espen Lydersen, and Dagang Tang. Sun . "Acid rain in China. Rapid industrialization has put citizens and ecosystems at risk". United States. doi:.
@article{osti_20701137,
title = {Acid rain in China. Rapid industrialization has put citizens and ecosystems at risk},
author = {Thorjoern Larssen and Espen Lydersen and Dagang Tang},
abstractNote = {Acid rain emerged as an important environmental problem in China in the late 1970s. Many years of record economic growth have been accompanied by increased energy demand, greater coal combustion, and larger emissions of pollutants. As a result of significant emissions and subsequent deposition of sulfur, widespread acid rain is observed in southern and southwestern China. In fact, the deposition of sulfur is in some places higher than what was reported from the 'black triangle' in central Europe in the early 1980s. In addition, nitrogen is emitted from agriculture, power production, and a rapidly increasing number of cars. As a result, considerable deposition of pollutants occurs in forested areas previously thought to be pristine. Little is known about the effects of acid deposition on terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems in China. This article presents the current situation and what to expect in the future, largely on the basis of results from a five-year Chinese-Norwegian cooperative project. In the years ahead, new environmental challenges must be expected if proper countermeasures are not put into place. 31 refs., 4 figs.},
doi = {},
journal = {Environmental Science and Technology},
number = 2,
volume = 40,
place = {United States},
year = {Sun Jan 15 00:00:00 EST 2006},
month = {Sun Jan 15 00:00:00 EST 2006}
}
  • Three decades of repeated soil sampling from eight permanent plots at the Calhoun Experimental Forest in South Carolina allowed the authors to estimate the rate of soil acidification, the chemical changes in the soil exchange complex, and the natural and anthropogenic sources of acidity contribution to these processes. During the first 34 yr of loblolly pine (Pinus taeda L.) forest growth, soil pH, decreased by 1 unit in the upper 0- to 15-cm of soils and by 0.4 and 0.3 units in the 15- to 35- and 35- to 60-cm layers, respectively. Throughout the 0- to 60-cm horizon, base cationmore » depletion averaged 1.57 kmol{sub c} ha{sup {minus}1} yr{sup {minus}1} and effective and total acidity increased by 1.26 and 3.28 kmol{sub c} ha{sup {minus}1} yr{sup {minus}1}, respectively. A forest H{sup +} budget estimated for these decades indicated that 38% of soil acidification was due to acid deposition, while 62% of soil acidification was due to acid disposition, while 62% of soil acidification was attributed to the internal functioning of the ecosystem. Soil samples archived during the three-decade experiment also document decreases in soil-adsorbed SO{sub 4}{sup 2{minus}}, presumably in response to decreasing atmospheric inputs in recent years.« less
  • The authors removed intact soil columns from the Harwood (550 to 790 m), Transition (790 to 1050 m), and Conifer (1050 to 1160 m) ecological zones of Camels Hump Mountain, Vermont, treated them with simulated acid rain (pH 4.0) or nonacidic (pH 5.6) rain, and examined the percolates for ammonium and nitrate ions. Nitrification in soils from all three ecosystems was unaffected by acidic treatments, but mineralization was stimulated by acidic treatment of soil from the Transition Zone. Irrespective of treatment, Conifer Zone soils released less nitrate than did either Transition or Hardwood Zone soils. Soil columns from the Hardwoodmore » Zone were treated with acidic or nonacidic simulated rainfall supplemented with nitrate, ammonium, or both N sources. NO3-N in percolates increased when acidic simulated rain was supplemented with ammonium ion or both ammonium and nitrate ions. Efflux of NH4-N was unaffected by supplementing precipitation with either ammonium or nitrate ions.« less
  • Acid-vulnerable areas are more numerous and widespread than believed 7 years ago. Lakes and streams in acid-vulnerable areas of northeastern North American have suffered substantial declines in acid-neutralizing capacity, the worst cases resulting in biological damage. Many invertebrates are very sensitive to acidification, with some disappearing at pH values as high as 6.0. However, the recent rate of acidification of lakes is slower than once predicted, in part the result of decreases in sulfur oxide emissions. A discussion of some of the processes that have contributed to the acidification of lakes as well as those that have protected acid-sensitive freshmore » waters is presented.« less
  • The US EPA is involved in a multi-year experiment to estimate the effects of acid rain on forest productivity and nutriet cycling. Each of eighteen model forest ecosystems, approximately 2.3 m/sup 2/ contains a reconstructed forest soil and litter layer, sugar maple (Acer saccharum) or red alder (Alnus rubra) seedlings, tension lysimeters, and soil moisture/temperature probes. Each plot receives simulated acid rain at one of four ph values (5.7, 4.0, 3.5, 3.0). All treatments contain Ca/sup + +/, NH/sub 4//sup +/, Na/sup +/, Mg/sup + +/, SO/sub 4//sup =/, NO/sub 3//sup -/ and Cl/sup -/ in amounts typical of non-acidicmore » rains in the northeastern United States. The pH values are controlled by equilibration with atmospheric CO/sub 2/ (pH 5.7) or by addition of H/sub 2/SO/sub 4/. Rain is applied at the rate of 2.5 mm/hr (maple) or 3.3 mm/hr (alder) for three hours/day, three days/week, throughout the year. Rainwater is sampled above and below the forest canopy; below the litter; within the root zone; and below the root zone. Biological processes being monitored include tree growth, leaf production, nutrient uptake, litter decomposition, and soil-biota changes. In this paper, the experimental design is described and the underlying conceptual model of ecosystem dynamics is presented. The methods of extrapolation to a regional scale are discussed.« less
  • The composition of precipitation in China is highly influenced by fossil fuel combustion and agricultural and cultural practices. Compared to the eastern US, precipitation in China generally has higher concentrations of sulfate, ammonium, and calcium. Wet deposition rates of sulfur in China are 7 to 130 times higher than those in a remote area in Australia. In many areas of the world, significant ecological changes have occurred in ecosystems that have acid deposition rates substantially less than those currently existing in China.