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Acidity exists naturally in the environment. For example, lakes and soils in forests are often naturally acidic. Meaning they are more or less sour. When more acidic elements are added to an area, like a lake, it can create acidification. Which is when the water becomes more sour than usual. This process occurs naturally as well. However, many human activities release more acidic elements than nature is used to. This causes an imbalance and can have negative consequences.  

Activities such as agriculture, transport and industries are examples that cause more acidification in nature. For example, cars release acidic elements like sulphur and nitrogen. This can have many negative effects on the environment.  

Acidification can be caused by forestry or emissions from traffic with diesel or petrol cars.

Acidification explained  

So, acidification happens when for example water gets too many acidic elements. Such as ocean acidification, which is a big environmental problem today. Acidification is measured on a scale called the pH scale. It ranges from 0-14, where seven is neutral. Under seven means that the water is acidic, while over seven indicates the opposite: base. In detail, the typical pH level in water ranges between 6.5 and 8.5.  

Furthermore, ocean acidification happens because of human emissions of CO2. The reaction of CO2 with water creates carbonic acid, which causes acidified seas. Another reason for the phenomenon is forestry. Increased acidification in the soils of a forest often leads to less natural nutrients in the land. More so, it can cause harm to plants and other organisms. As it pushes out the nutrients of the land. For example, this affects root growth and plant development.  

Furthermore, the burning of fossil fuels causes acidification on two levels. First, the burning emits sulphur dioxide and nitrogen dioxide. Which are two acidic elements. Second, the reaction of sulphur dioxide with air can create something called sulphuric acid. This strong acid is often spread across the land through the rain, creating acid rain.  

Overall, a higher level of acidification in nature disturbs the natural balance. In other words, it disrupts ecosystems. This can eventually lead to the depletion of different species. Which could cause biodiversity loss.  

Preventing environmental harm  

Acidification can be prevented with liming. For example, material that contains calcium can help to neutralise soils. However, increasing the amount of calcium also leads to other imbalances. Therefore, the problem of acidification is best dealt with by lowering the emissions of acidic elements. By either limiting the use of harmful substances or banning them completely. A very good way to counteract the problem is to stop using fossil fuels.  

Examples of sources: National Geographic, The Swedish Environmental Protection Agency


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