Scientists have found that air pollution from coal-fired power plants and vehicle emissions has harmed ecosystems in the eastern United States more than previously thought. That includes pollution from the Ohio River Valley region, which generally travels West to East. Researchers from The Nature Conservancy and the Cary Institute for Ecosystem studies found that many previous studies examined the effects of a single pollutant on a certain aspect of an ecosystem. But lead author Gary Lovett says they don’t show the big picture.
“What we found was that all of those ecosystem types are affected by at least one of the pollutants and most of them are affected by more than one. So when you look at it in a broad scale like that, you see the pervasiveness of the effect, and it strikes you as being a widespread and serious effect, more serious than the impression you get by looking at an individual pollutant,” says Lovett.
Lovett also says that current air pollution regulations focus on human health and what we breathe in. But ecosystems are more affected by pollutants that settle out of the air and onto the ground. There, they can acidify rivers and streams, as well as acidify soil, making it more difficult for plants and animals to thrive.
On the Web: Read The Nature Conservancy and the Cary Institute for Ecosystem Studies report here (.pdf file).