NEW YORK — F. Herbert Bormann, 90, a plant ecologist whose research with colleagues on a swath of New Hampshire forest in 1971 documented a new environmental horror in the United States — acid rain — died on June 7 at his home in North Branford, Conn.
The cause was complications of a lung infection, his daughter Rebecca said.
Mr. Bormann and his team of scientists discovered the threat of acid rain in a small watershed in the White Mountains, where they had gone to analyze chemical interactions in the area’s ecosystem.
The scientists traced the acidity to sulfur dioxide emissions and various nitrogen oxides from faraway smokestacks. The gases are converted to sulfuric acid and nitric acid in the air.
Mr. Bormann and his team detailed some of the pernicious effects of acid rain, including reduced forest growth and fish kills, in Science magazine in 1974.
The Bormann team found that the new pollution-control gear did not prevent the emission of acidic gases. A factor was that smokestacks were being built much taller, some up to a quarter of a mile, and thus dispersing pollution over wider areas. In effect, a solution to local soot problems had helped lead to regional acid rain problems.
Congress consulted Mr. Bormann’s work on all of this when it moved to regulate acid rain in the Clean Air Act of 1990.
Years after he earned international acclaim, he turned his attention to the American lawn. The 1993 book ‘‘Redesigning the American Lawn,’’ which he wrote with Diana Balmori and Gordon T. Geballe, derided lawns as devouring dangerous chemicals, scarce water, and almost as grievously, homeowners’ time.
The time had come, Mr. Bormann proclaimed, for ‘‘freedom lawns.’’