Different organisms have difference tolerances for increases in acidity, but minor effects in one species may contribute to effects elsewhere in an ecosystem. For example, the mayfly (an aquatic insect) will die from a small increase in the acidity of water, whereas frogs can tolerate a much higher increase in acidity. However, since the mayfly is a vital source of food to frogs, frog populations can decrease after small increases in acidity as well. This is only one example of how changes in acidity can disrupt the delicate balance that exists in ecosystems.
Vegetation can also be sensitive to increases in acidity. Increases in soil acidity can deplete the nutrients in the soil that plants need to grow. As well, increases in soil acidity can set off a number of chemical reactions that end up causing aluminum and other harmful metals to be released.
Climate change – carbon dioxide
Carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas. "Greenhouse gases" are atmospheric gases, which, despite their very low concentrations, cause the surface temperature of Earth to increase. This is one of the substantial contributors to global climate change.
Naturally occurring greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide make conditions on Earth suitable for life. However, the rapid increase in greenhouse gas emissions attributed to human activity has already had damaging effects on Earth’s climate, which are anticipated to become more severe as emissions increase. In terms of human health, likely impacts of atmospheric warming include freshwater shortages and compromised food supply. The number of days each year in warm climates, where temperatures exceed safe levels for humans is increasing. It is anticipated that warmer temperatures will enable disease-carrying insects to expand their habitats. As a result, illnesses such as malaria, yellow fever, and sleeping sickness may become present in areas that haven’t been severely affected before.
Damage to plants – ground-level ozone
Plants are very sensitive to ozone exposure. Ozone can damage various cells and cellular components of plants which can disrupt their ability to photosynthesize. When photosynthesis is compromised, plants are not able to grow as readily. For this reason, crop yields can be reduced due to increases in ozone.
The damaging effects of ozone on plants can be increased when other pollutants like sulfur dioxide are present.