How Does Acid Rain Affect The Flora of Our Environment?

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Updated on Sep 19, 2013

2011 VIRTUAL SCIENCE FAIR ENTRY

Abstract

The purpose of this scientific study is to investigate the physiological effects of acid rain on plants in our environment.

The experimental procedure consists of the following steps.Make two solutions daily. The first solution consists of rainwater, and the second solution consists of the combination of vinegar and rainwater, which has a pH of 3.0.Hydrate all plants in the experimental and control group with the appropriate solution.Observe, record results, and take pictures of the plants daily. Perform multiple experimental trials.

In conclusion, the experimental results showed that my hypothesis is correct.The acid rain plants exhibited a dramatic physiological change because of the acidity of the water.When the pH of water decreases, the acidity increases.The daily watering of the plants with a low pH resulted in the leaching of vital nutrients from the soil.Therefore, the acid rain plants withered, shriveled, and nearly died.The control group, the rainwater plants, maintained a healthy and vibrant physiological appearance.

Type
Earth Science
Grade
12th
Difficulty of the Project
Hard
Cost
$100
Safety Issues

There were no safety issues for consideration.

Time Taken to Complete the Project

100 hours

The purpose of the project is to investigate the physiological effects of acid rain on plants in our environment.The goal of the project is to discover the effects of acid rain on our environment.

  1. Digital Camera
  2. Room Thermometer
  3. Measuring Cup
  4. Teaspoon
  5. Rainwater
  6. White Vinegar
  7. Forty-eight Small Pansy Plants (Viola x wittrockiana),
  8. pH Strips
  9. Stirring Rod
  10. Safety Goggles
  11. Gloves
  12. Sturdy Table
  13. Lab Notebook
  14. Pencils
  15. Lab Coat
  16. Two Five Hundred Milliliter Glass Beakers

The materials were found at a greenhouse or plant nursery and the grocery store.The materials were readily found.

Acid rain affects the flora and fauna in our environment.The Almanac of Policy Issues states that “Acid rain” is caused by nitrogen and sulfur oxides that are released into the atmosphere by the burning of fossil fuels.These pollutants combine with oxygen and water vapor in the air to form dilute solutions of nitric and sulfuric acids.These acids can kill living organisms within our environment.The formation of acid rain is directly correlated to human activities.The emission of toxic pollutants stems from industrialized nations where industry, transportation, power generation and ore smelting contribute to the production of acidified rain (“What is Acid”, 2002).

In 1872, the English scientist Robert Angus Smith observed the effects of acidic precipitation on trees and plants of his geographical region.He was given credit for coining the term acid rain (“A Brief History”, 2010, p. 1).Although it was not a major concern to the world leaders of the time, acid rain was of some interest to the scientific community.Acid rain has the physical appearance of typical rain water.It looks, tastes, and feels like regular precipitation (“Effects Acid Humans”, 2009). In 1974, researcher Gene Likens wrote a scientific report on the rain showers of New Hampshire.He stated, “You sing in the rain, you wash your hair in it, you walk in the rain, then you see the rain, and there is something wrong with it” (Omes, 2009, p. 1).Nearly a century later, this single report gained the attention of the scientific community of the seriousness of the effects acid rain has on the environment.Liken’s research was the foundation for the Clean Air Act of the United States of America (Omes, 2009).

  1. Acid Rain
  2. Flora
  3. Fauna
  4. Buffering Capacity
  5. Viscosity
  6. Chemical Formulas Relating To The Formation of Acid Rain
  7. Chemistry of The Troposphere
  8. Troposphere
  9. Parts of A Plant

  • What is acid rain?
  • How does acid rain effect our environment?
  • What is flora?
  • What is fauna?
  • How does acid rain affect the flora and fauna?
  • How does acid rain affect manmade structures?
  • What impact does acid rain have on human health?
  • How does acid rain form?

  1. Make two sets of solutions daily. The first solution consists of rainwater, which is collected from the environment in a rain barrel.Pour two cups (500 ml) of rainwater into a glass beaker and label it rainwater.Pour two cups (500 ml) of rainwater into a different glass beaker and label it acid rain.
  2. In the beaker labeled acid rain, pour five and a half teaspoons of white vinegar into the two cups (500 ml) of rainwater.
  3. Use the stirring rod to mix the acid rain solution.
  4. Check the pH of the resulting acid rain solution with a pH indicator.Make sure the solution has a pH of 3.
  5. Categorize the plants into two groups of eight.Label one group acid rain solution plants and the other group rainwater plants.
  6. Place the plants on a sturdy table where they will receive adequate sunlight.
  7. On a daily basis, hydrate all plants within the experimental and control group.Measure one eighth cup of rainwater from the rainwater beaker and pour it on the plants labeled rainwater. Measure one eighth of a cup of the acid rain solution from the acid rain beaker and pour it on the plants labeled acid rain solution.
  8. Take pictures of the plants daily.
  9. Observe data and record results in the laboratory notebook daily.
  10. Repeat this experiment multiple times to ensure accurate results.

Data and Analysis

Trial 1: December 26, 2010 through January 1, 2011

Trial 2: January 2, 2011 through January 8, 2011

Trial 3: January 9, 2011 through January 15, 2011

Trial 1
December 26, 2010

Both the rainwater and acid rain plants are healthy and vibrant.The pigmentation of both sets of plants is dark green.

December 27, 2010

The rainwater plants exhibit no change.The flowers are intact and erect and the leaves are dark green.The acid rain plants show slight variations from the previous day.Some of the leaves showed signs of distress.

December 28, 2010

The rainwater plants exhibit no noticeable change in their appearance.The flower petals are intact and the leaves are dark green.The acid rain plants exhibit a higher level of distress.There is a slight discoloration in the pigmentation of the leaves.The colors of the leaves are fading to a light green.

December 29, 2010

The rainwater plants are upright with flowers petals intact.They exhibit little to no change.The acid rain plants show signs of wilting.Many plant leaves are yellow in appearance and a few have light brown at edges.

December 30, 2010

Overall, the rainwater plants are healthy.The pigmentation of the leaves is dark green.Some slight wilting of the flower petals is evident.The majority of the flower petals in the acid rain plants are no longer present.Withering of the plants has continued, along with yellowing and browning of the leaves.

December 31, 2010

The flower petals of some of the rainwater plants are wilting.The plant leaves are still dark green in pigmentation and healthy in their physiological appearance. The stems of many acid rain plants have a yellow appearance.Drooping and wilting is prevalent and the overall health of the plants is deteriorating.The browning of the leaves continues.

January 1, 2011

The rainwater plants exhibit a healthy appearance.The pigmentation of the leaves is dark green and a few flower buds have appeared.The acid rain plants exhibit an extremely unhealthy appearance.The plants are shriveled with several dead leaves.The plants exhibit a severe dehydrated and malnourished appearance.

Trial 2
January 2, 2011

The rainwater and acid rain plants are healthy in appearance with dark green pigmentation.

January 3, 2011

The rainwater plants show no change in appearance. The flowers exhibit an upright posture and are blossoming with life.The acid rain plants exhibit an insignificant physiological change.The leaf pigmentation is dark green and the flower petals are intact.

January 4, 2011

The rainwater plants have a fresh appearance.The pigmentation of the leaves is dark green and the flowers are vibrant in appearance.The acid rain plants exhibit a slight discoloration in the pigmentation of their leaves.The color of the leaves changed to a lighter shade of green.

January 5, 2011

The rainwater plants are healthy in their physiological appearance.The flower petals are upright and intact.The leaves of the acid rain plants exhibit wilting, yellowing, and browning.

January 6, 2011

The rainwater plants maintained a healthy physiological appearance.The pigmentation of the leaves is dark green.Some flower petals showed signs of wilting.The majority of the acid rain plants have no flower petals.Wilting of the plants is widespread and the leaves continue to turn yellow and brown.

January 7, 2011

The rainwater plants are healthy in appearance.There is a slight progression in the wilting of the flower petals.The coloration of the leaves remained dark green. The overall health of the acid rain plants is deteriorating.Both the stems and the leaves of the acid rain plants are yellowing, drooping, and withering in their physiological appearance.The leaves continue to turn brown.

January 8, 2011

The rainwater plants remained healthy in appearance.The foliage is lush and dark green.Some plants have flower buds.The acid rain plants exhibit an unhealthy appearance.The foliage is shriveled, dehydrated, and on the brink of death.

Trial 3
January 9, 2011

The rainwater and acid rain plants are healthy with dark green foliage and vibrant flowers.

January 10, 2011

The rainwater plants are healthy in physiological appearance.The leaves have a dark green pigmentation and all flowers are upright.There is a small change in the physiological appearance of the acid rain plants.The foliage of the plants is not as vibrant as the previous day.

January 11, 2011

The rainwater plants are similar in appearance to the previous day.There is no noticeable change in their physiology.The pigmentation of the leaves of the acid rain plants is fading.The foliage changed from a dark green pigmentation to a shade of light green.

January 12, 2011

The rainwater plants are upright in position with flower petals intact.They have an overall healthy appearance.The acid rain plants are showing signs of physiological distress.The plants leaves are yellowing, browning, and wilting.

January 13, 2011

The rainwater plants are healthy with lush green foliage.A few flower petals are wilting.All flower petals of the acid rain plants are no longer present.The leaf pigmentation continues to turn yellow with slight browning on the edges.The acid rain plants show an increase in wilting.

January 14, 2011

The rainwater plants maintained a healthy outward appearance with wilting of some flower petals.The leaves are dark green in pigmentation and a few new flower buds are present.The stems of the acid rain plants are becoming yellow in appearance.The health of the acid rain plants are drastically deteriorating with drooping and wilting prevalent.The browning of the leaves continue.

January 15, 2011

The rainwater plants are healthy in appearance.The pigmentation of the leaves remains dark green and the majority of the flower petals are intact.The acid rain plants have undergone dramatic physiological changes.The plants are unhealthy in their appearance.The leaves are shriveled, withered, and dried.The coloration of the plant stems are light yellow and the majority of the leaves are brown.

The control group is the rainwater plants and the experimental group is the acid rain solution plants.The dependent variables include the amount of rainwater, the species of plant selected, the temperature, and the amount of sunlight.Independent variables include the addition of vinegar to the rainwater to form the acid rain solution.The rainwater plants maintained an overall healthy physiological appearance.The foliage remained lush and dark green in color.There was a natural withering of the flower petals in the three trials.Flower buds appeared on day six of trial three and day seven of trial one and trial two.The acid rain plants exhibited similar results within the three trials.As the week progressed, the plants showed increasing levels of distress.The pigmentation of the leaves changed progressively from dark green to light green.Then, the colors of the leaves changed from light green to yellow.Finally, the leaves showed a browning appearance.The stem changed from a vibrant dark green to yellow.As the days progressed, the flower petals wilted and fell off.The acid rain plants changed from an upright, vertical position to a sloping, downward position.These plants exhibited a dramatic physiological change because of the acidity of the water.When the pH of water decreases, the acidity increases.Pure water has a pH of 7.0 and unpolluted rainwater has a pH of 5.6.The acid rain solution that was created in this experiment has a pH of 3.0.The daily watering of the plants with this low pH resulted in the leaching of vital nutrients from the soil.This caused the acid rain plants to wither, shrivel, and nearly die.

In conclusion, the experimental results show that my hypothesis is correct.The control group, which consisted of the rainwater plants, showed a normal progression of flower petal loss and maintained their healthy, lush, and dark green foliage.On the other hand, the addition of vinegar to rainwater in the experimental group caused the pigmentation of the plants foliage to change from dark green to yellow.At the end of each trial, the acid rain plants were on the brink of death.The plants exhibited extreme negative physiological changes.This included a complete loss of flower petals, and withering, drying, and shriveling of the plants foliage. Due to the similarities in the outcomes of the experimental trials, my hypothesis was supported by the data.Therefore, no calculated experimental error was observed.

If I were to perform my project again, I would measure the pH of the soil with a pH indicator.I could expand upon my research by explaining in greater detail what is acid rain and how is acid rain formed.I could include the chemical formulas of the formation of acid rain.

Acid rain: effects felt through the food chain.(2010).National Geographic, Retrieved October 2, 2010, from http://environment.nationalgeographic.com/environment/global-warming/acid-rain-overview.html

Alcamo, I., Bogin B., Butler, L., Chubb, C., Davis, M., Ehmann, W., et al.(1999).Modern biology.New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston.

Brown, T., Bursten, B., Lemay, H.(2006).Chemistry the central science tenth edition.Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Prentice Hall.

Davis, R., Metcalfe, H., Williams, J., Castka, J. (2002).Modern chemistry.New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston.

Department of Environmental Protection, Bureau of Air Quality, State of Maine. (2010).Acidrain. Retrieved September 25, 2010, from State of Maine Website: http://www.maine.gov/dep/air/acidrain/

Effects of acid rain.Retrieved from http://faculty.plattsburgh.edu/thomas.wolosz/extinotesdir.html

Environmental Protection Agency.(2007).Effects of acid rain-forests.Retrieved September 18, 2010, from Environmental Protection Agency Website:http://www.epa.gov/acidrain/effects/forests.html

Environmental Protection Agency.(2008).Effects of acid rain-surface waters and aquatic animals.Retrieved September 11, 2010,from Environmental Protection Agency Website: http://www.epa.gov/acidrain/effects/surface_water.html

Environmental Protection Agency.(2009).Effects of acid rain-human health.Retrieved October 11, 2010, from Environmental Protection Agency Website: http://www.epa.gov/acidrain/effects/health.html

Environmental Protection Agency. (2010). A brief history: acid rain in New England.Retrieved October 4, 2010, from Environmental Protection Agency Website: http://www.epa.gov/ne/eco/acidrain/history.html

Likens, G (2010).Effects on aquatic organisms.In The Encyclopedia of Earth [Web].Retrieved October 7, 2010, from http://www.eoearth.org/article/Acid-rain?topic=49506#gen9

Mattmiller, B (2000, August 11).Lake study shows persistence of acid rain effects.News.wisc.edu, Retrieved September 13, 2010, from http://www.news.wisc.edu/5150

Omes, S (2009).Acid rain: the term has faded from public consciousness-but not the environment.Discover Magazine, Retrieved October 9, 2010, from http://discovermagazine.com/2009/mar/13-whatever-happened-to-acid-rain

Tennesen, M (2010).Sour showers: acid rain returns—this time it is caused by nitrogen emissions.Scientific American, Retrieved September 18, 2010, from http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=acid-rain-caused-by-nitrogen-emissions

What is acid rain and what causes it.(2002, August 6).Almanac of Policy Issues, Retrieved October 16, 2010, from http://www.policyalmanac.org/environment/archive/acid_rain

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