One of the findings of decade long experiment in the Appalachian Mountains being done by the U.S. forest Service has stated that the forest watered by acid rain isn’t able to slake its thirst. The U.S. Forest Service has been dousing a 34-hectare patch of forest with an acidifying ammonium sulphate fertilizer three times a year since 1989. The research was conducted in Fernow Experimental Forest near Parsons, W. Va., where deciduous trees like cherry, maple, oak and others grow from a silty loam of sandstone and shale.
The research states that the chemical created, when sulphur and nitrogen containing compounds are released by industrial activities, agriculture and fossil fuels burning, is serving as proxy for acid rain. It is acidifying the raindrops. The researchers have reported that acidified forest has soaked up around 5 per cent more water in most of the years from 1989 to 2012, as compared to the neighbouring 39 hectare untreated area. It has gone up by 10 per cent more in two of the years.
The plants need calcium to retain water but the levels of calcium in the water that permeates the soil of the acidified forest have declined over the study period. This has led to the forest’s water guzzling. Eco hydrologist Lixin Wang of Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis said that they didn’t expect that the plants will actually respond so strongly to acidification. This is a cause of concern, he mentioned, as the thirstier plants can contribute to droughts or leave less water available for people and other animals.
It is still not clear whether other types of forests having different trees or types of soil will show the same results or not. But still this is not a small amount of water that the research is talking about, concluded Matthew Lanning, an Eco hydrologist in Wang’s lab.