Boulder, CO, USA Climate change and extreme weather events grab the headlines, but there is another, lesser known, global change underway on land, in the seas, and in the air: acidification.
It turns out that combustion of fossil fuels, smelting of ores, mining of coal and metal ores, and application of nitrogen fertilizer to soils are all driving down the pH of the air, water, and the soil at rates far faster than Earth's natural systems can buffer, posing threats to both land and sea life.
"It's a bigger picture than most of us know," says Janet Herman of the Department of Environmental Sciences at University of Virginia in Charlottesville.
Herman and her colleague, Karen Rice of the USGS, discovered that despite the fact that they worked on different kinds of acidification in the environment, they were not well informed about the matter beyond their own specialties. So they have done an extensive review of science papers about all kinds of environmental acidification and are presenting their work in a poster session on Tuesday, 6 Nov., at the annual meeting of the Geological Society of America (GSA) in Charlotte, North Carolina, USA.
Acidification is both a local and global problem, since it can be as close as a nearby stream contaminated by mine tailings or as far-reaching as the world's oceans, which are becoming more acidic as sea water absorbs higher concentrations of carbon dioxide that humans dump into the atmosphere by burning fossil fuels.
Coal gives a double whammy by being the biggest contributor of anthropogenic carbon dioxide to the global atmosphere as well as creating regional acidification. Coal burning is famous for creating acid rain, which had dramatic environmental impacts on forests, streams, and lakes in eastern North America and Europe and led to major policy changes.
"It's not at all clear that other regions are considering such policy restrictions to be important," Herman sa
|Contact: Christa Stratton|
Geological Society of America