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Acid Rain

Volume 86: debated on Monday 11 November 1985

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asked the Secretary of State for the Environment what reports he has received concerning tree damage allegedly attributed to acid rain.

Copies of the following reports prepared in the past year are available to the Department of the Environment:

A report by the Forestry Commission entitled "Forest Health and Air Pollution, 1984, Survey" (Forestry Commission Research and Development Paper 142) which concluded "the 1984 survey of Sitka and Norway spruce and Scots pine in Great Britain has shown no evidence of any new form of forest damage. Stands in less than perfect health can be accounted for without invoking pollution damage. Nevertheless, only repeated surveys will show whether Britain has indeed escaped the blight which has descended on the forests of central Europe".
A report entitled "Beech Health Study" by D. Lonsdale and J. N. Gibbs for the Forestry Commission (Research Information Note 100/85/PATH) which concluded, amongst other things, that no prima facie evidence for pollution damage has as yet been found but further conclusions must await a complete analysis of the data.
A recent report of a survey by the Friends of the Earth on acid rain damage to trees in Britain which concluded, among other things, that typical symptoms of acid rain damage to trees are now widespresd in Britain.

asked the Secretary of State for the Environent if he will list those research projects receiving Government support for the investigation of acid deposition on (a) wildlife, (b) agricultural ecosystems and (c) buildings and structures and state the sums involved.

The following is a list of research projects in my Department's current research programme relating to the effects of acid deposition on the natural environment and buildings:

Research projectTotal cost £
1. The effects of acid rain on upland soils and streams244,200
2. Chemical inputs from precipitation and their effect on a catchment129,000
3. Effects on acidification on lakes and streams in Scotland147,000
4. Effects of acid rain on plants and soils569,000
5. Effects of afforestation and land management on the acidity of 5 catchments in Wales272,000
6. Effects of acid rain on freshwater eco-systems in north-west England176,000
7. Effects of acid deposition and photo-oxidants on trees184,000
8. Aspects of pollutant attack on limestone buildings49,000
9. Degradation of building materials in the presence of air pollutants70,500
10. Identification and assessment of materials damage by air pollution25,500
11. Effects of atmospheric nitrogen compounds on natural vegetation87,200
12. Effects of low temperature fluctuation on the sensitivity of crops and trees to air pollutant damage67,000
13. Effects of air pollution on metallic materials150,000
14. Pollutant take-up and stone decaying southern Britain27,000
15. Effects of acid deposition on vertical surfaces19,500
16. Development of methodologies to evaluate stock at risk from air pollution10,700
I understand that the following relevant research projects are also receiving Government support:
ProjectTotal Cost £
Scottish Office: acid deposition at Loch Dee75,000
Welsh Office: ecological monitoring of acid rain in Wales32,000
Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food: the response of barley to sulphur dioxide at concentrations controlled by fumigation65,200
Forestry Commission: effects of ambient levels of air pollution on tree growth in rural areas*
* This work is being undertaken directly by the Forestry Commission. The capital cost of equipment is £190,000 and about 2½ man years effort a year will be required.

Natural Environment Research Council


Cost in 1984–85 £

1. Acidification of run-off from melting snow pack16,500
2. Effects of ambient air pollutants on plant growth in and around London24,300
3. Assessment of likely concentrations of toxic products of SO 2 and NO x fumigation of plants at their site of action4,400
4. Effects of gaseous pollutants on the interaction between plants and invertebrate herbivores3,600
5. Physiological effects of SO 2 pollution in water stressed plants6,000
6. Physiological Biochemical and ultra-structural role of calcium in the gills of freshwater teleosts and arthropods with respect to survival at low pH16,000
7. Interception of wind blown fog by vegetation and pathways for pollutant deposition13,700
(50 per cent
8. Chemical speciation of Aluminiumfrom DOE)
(50 per cent
9. Diatom survey related to pH and water chemistryfrom DOE)
10. Measurement of pH in freshwaters19,000
11. Trophic relationships and effects of acid waters on stream invertebrates15,000
(50 per cent
12. Acid deposition and ground waterfrom EEC)
13. Effects of different forest canopies on the gross precipitation passing to the soil(50 per cent from DOE)
(50 per cent
14. Effects of acid precipitation on river catchmentsfrom DOE)
(40 per cent
15. Effects of polluted atmospheres on cropsMAFF)
16. Interaction of airborne pollutants with natural surfaces in particular epicuticular wax of scots pine5,000
17. Interaction of grazing and air pollution26,500
18. Measurement of the rate of dry deposition of SO 2 on a Scots pine forest13,600
19. Chemical composition of rainfall through Northern Britain33,900
20. Effect of acid rain on the extension growth of Sitka spruce3,800
21. Influence of rainfall acidity on transport and exchange of gases between plants and atmosphere3,200
22. Hydro-chemistry of run-off from upland catchments26,500
23. Transient acid surges in upland streams54,000