North Fork Watershed Association
Monday, May 20, 2013
Buffers are substances that serve as a 'cushion' to drastic pH changes from the addition of a strong acid or base.
Different substances can accept certain amounts of a strong acid or base before the pH is significantly altered. This is known as its buffering capacity.
Certain biological buffers are vital to the health of organisms. Blood, for example, has a pH of 7.4. A change in this pH to 7.3 can result in acidosis which depresses the nervous system and can lead to coma. Carbonic acid (a weak acid) and the hydrogen carbonate ion (can accept H+), are two of the buffers that keep blood at a healthy pH.
Buffers for forest, riparian, and aquatic ecosystems are equally important to the health of their living organisms. Without a significant buffering capacity in soils and streams, the ecosystem is left vulnerable to events such as acid rain. Few organisms can survive swift, negative effects to their environment.