Hard Rain Keeps Falling

08-01-2001 // Mark Cheater

Think the acid-rain issue went out with stone-washed jeans? Think again. New research shows that habitats in the Northeast have not recovered from decades of harmful precipitation. Acid rain is formed when pollution from power plants, vehicles, livestock manure and other sources combines with moisture in the atmosphere. It washes nutrients out of soils, stresses trees, poisons lakes and harms wildlife. Despite pollution cuts mandated by the Clean Air Act during the past 30 years, acid rain causes a series of harmful and lingering changes in the soil and water, according to a report published in the journal BioScience. It has contributed to the death of more than half of the mature red spruce trees in the Adirondack and Green Mountains, and the destruction of as much as 80 percent of some sugar maple stands in Pennsylvania. "The science on this issue is clear," says one of the reportĀ“s authors, Gene Likens, director of the Institute of Ecosystem Studies in Millbrook, New York. "Current emissions control policies are not sufficient to recover sensitive watersheds in New England."

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