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UK waters shown to be recovering from acid rain damage

October 1, 2010 at 2:31 pm

A report from the Acid Waters Monitoring Network (AWMN) has stated that waters in the UK are now beginning to recover from acid rain damage. Initial summaries of the report have, however, concluded that it will be many more years before all the surrounding plant and pond life are fully recovered.

Researchers have been keen to stress that this is only the beginning of the recovery and that there is still a large distance to go. The brown trout and salmon in the UK have started to re-appear in previously acidic sites but have not fully recovered from the acid rain damage to their populations, and nor has much of the affected plant life, insect species and snail populations.

Going further than this, Emeritus Professor Rick Battarbee, of UCL, who played a part in the research, said, “we still have a very long way to go to return these systems to full health, and there is real concern that a full recovery might be prevented by climate change.” For these reasons it has not yet been possible to predict when a full recovery can be expected, if at all.

Fears are rife that any significant climate change may affect recovery and this could mean further controls on dangerous gases need to be put in place. Research of this kind is likely to provide a further drive to Defra who are playing an important role in deals such as the EU National Emission Ceilings Directive and the Gothenburg Protocol.

The key policies for acid rain reduction were put into effect in the 1980s under Margaret Thatcher’s government and this new research has proved them to be successful. Discussing the recovery, environmental minister, Lord Henley, was also looking to the future and said that this “demonstrates the opportunity we have to build on this success through forthcoming international agreements that will allow us to return damaged rivers and lakes to a healthy state.”

The Acid Waters Monitoring Network is a Defra funded network of groups that has been responsible for research regarding acid rain damage throughout the UK. These groups were vital to the success of measuring change and the effectiveness of environmental policies. Professor Battarbee backed these sentiments adding that these reports “illustrate the importance of high quality, long-term ecological networks that we need to monitor, measure and model environmental change.”

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