How do Culverts Affect Plant Growth in Streams?

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Updated on Sep 29, 2014

Grade Level: Middle School; Type: Earth Science / Botany


Culverts transport seeds away from their original location to different places. This science project involves examining the effect of culverts on plant growth in streams.

Research Question:

What is a culvert?

What factors affect seed distribution in streams and rivers?


  • Camera
  • Good book on plant identification (your local nature center should be helpful)
  • Graph paper, pen, ruler
  • Soil test kits (available on line or from your local hardware store or garden supply store). Simple kits measure nitrogen, pH, and phosphorus. Other kits are more elaborate.

Experimental Procedure

  1. Identify several culverts that flow into local creeks. Try to find the origin of the culvert.
  2. Identify the upstream and downstream sides of the culvert.
  3. Take photos of the plant life found on the upstream side of the culvert. Don’t forget to consider plants that grow in the water as well. Identify the species.
  4. Take photos of the plant life found on the downstream side of the culture. Identify any specifies that were found on the downstream side that were not found upstream.
  5. Make a map of the area, identifying the location of the plants.
  6. Using soil test kits measure the nutrients in the soil both upstream and downstream.
  7. Repeat steps 2-6 for the culverts you identified in step 1.

Terms/Concepts: culvert, seed distribution, foreign plant


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