Acid deposition and its ecological effects: A brief history of research

Eville Gorham

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

35 Scopus citations


Research on acid deposition can be traced to the mid-19th century, but has expanded greatly in the last 50 yr, focussing in particular upon the effects on ecosystems of acid deposition caused by the combustion of fossil fuels. Observational studies first associated such acidification with its chemical and biological effects. They were supplemented in 1976 by experimental acidification of a whole lake. By 1980, paleoecological techniques were employed to investigate past histories of acidification. In the 1980s, critical loads were calculated to measure how much acid deposition could be tolerated by aquatic ecosystems. Reductions in emissions of sulfur dioxide, as well as experimental studies in the mid-1980s, allowed investigations of recovery from acidification. At the same time, other studies showed that lake sediments and wetland peats mitigate acid deposition by reducing sulfate and nitrate. In the mid-1990s it has become apparent that acid deposition interacts with other environmental stresses such as climate warming and ozone depletion.
Original languageUndefined/Unknown
Pages (from-to)153-166
Number of pages14
JournalEnvironmental Science and Policy
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1998


  • Acidity of atmospheric precipitation and contributing environmental factors

Cite this