From: Associated Press
Published December 6, 2005 12:00 AM

Scientists to Study Acid Rain, Smokies

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Scientists plan to study soil this spring in high elevations of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park -- the area most affected by acid rain and other environmental problems, officials say.


The Smokies' suffer from some of the worst acid rain problems in the U.S., especially after major rains or snow melts when streams and rainwater in the higher elevations become more acidic than normal.


Acid rain results when sulfur and nitrogen byproducts from fossil fuel-burning plants, industries and motorized vehicles combine with water vapor to form weak acid.


The study will target sites examined by the Environmental Protection Agency in the 1980s, enabling scientists to see how the soils have changed.


"We have been studying the effects of acid deposition on streams, and now we're looking at soils," said Michael Jenkins, a forest ecologist for the Smokies. "We're filling in another piece of the puzzle."


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To study the soil, scientists will dig down to the bedrock at four high-elevation sites located on the Tennessee and North Carolina sides of the 500,000-acre park.


The four sites are above 4,000 feet where acid rain and polluted cloud water cause some of the worst acid deposition problems, which the park began monitoring more than 20 years ago.


"Changes in the soil chemistry have a cascading effect that impacts the plants and trees -- and ultimately the animals that rely on them," Jenkins said.


Source: Associated Press


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