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Air Research

Ecosystems and Air Quality

River with clouds

Research has linked air pollution to many effects on ecosystems. Studies have shown that air pollutants such as sulfur can lead to excess amounts of acid in lakes and streams and damage trees and forest soils. Nitrogen in the atmosphere has been found to harm fish and other aquatic life when deposited on surface waters.

Research has helped to understand ozone pollution's ability to damage tree leaves and negatively affect scenic vistas in protected natural areas. Mercury and other heavy metal compounds that are emitted into the air from combustion of fuel and deposited have been found to accumulate in plants and animals, some of which are consumed by people.

Research is conducted to understand the ecological impacts of air pollutants and to support the secondary National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS), which provide public welfare protection, including protection against decreased visibility and damage to animals, crops, vegetation, and buildings. Deposition modeling tools are developed, air pollution emissions and precursor pollutants (e.g., ammonia) are measured and pollutant deposition on ecosystems is measured and quantified, among other research activities.

Links

Science Matters: Trees and Air Pollution

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