In just two years time, the World will have lost two-thirds of all wild animals according to The Living Planet Index.
As we begin to understand that pesticides and fungicides are contaminating pollen and killing bees and other insects in numbers which can't be calculated, so too are fertilizers from agriculture and gardens causing algal blooms which are killing fish and marine life also in numbers which can't be calculated yearly in the West.
On Friday Maryland reached a 10-year high in flesh-eating bacteria infections in the Chesapeake Bay so far this summer caused by an algae bloom, full story here
Emma Howard, with help from Bernie Carhart, and Kati Bain , see below, have written and researched a biology project on algal blooms and kindly shared the results with The Big Wobble.
If algae blooms are grown in different climates, then their growth rate will vary, because of the change in temperature and sun exposure
Introduction and Background
We depend on fresh water from lakes, rivers, and reservoirs for drinking, as well as for recreational activities, such as swimming, boating, and fishing. It is obviously of critical importance to keep sources of fresh water as clean and unpolluted as possible. But many activities leave these water sources polluted and unfit for personal consumption. Nitrogen and phosphorus compounds from fertilizers are among the most common pollutants. They contribute to pollution by causing algae and bacteria in the water to reproduce rapidly. When these organisms die, the decomposition process then depletes oxygen in the water, killing fish and other aquatic life.
Nitrogen is supplied in fertilizers because it is necessary for plant growth, but is often in short supply in soils. Nitrogen makes up the majority of our atmosphere, but plants are not able to use the form of nitrogen found in the atmosphere, called diatomic nitrogen (N2.) Plants require a form of nitrogen that they can readily absorb and use to promote growth and reproduction. Nitrogen in the form of nitrates works very well as a plant fertilizer and is produced in large quantities for this purpose. Phosphorus is also often present in fertilizers in the form of phosphate. Phosphate-containing chemicals deliver the essential element phosphorus to plants in a readily absorbable form.
Some of the nitrates and phosphates in fertilizer wash off lawns, golf courses, and agricultural fields into freshwater sources. When these chemicals are introduced into a natural water source, such as a pond, they can upset the ecological balance that exists, causing some organisms to flourish (such as algae) at the expense of others (such as fish). Therefore, it is important to consider means to prevent or reduce the amount of fertilizer that finds its way into natural bodies of fresh water when considering ways to deliver fertilizer to crops and lawns. In this environmental science fair project, you will investigate the effect of varying concentrations of fertilizers on the growth of freshwater algae.
Collecting and Setting Up the Pond/Lake Water Samples
- Collect 2 L of pond water from a local pond using the 4-L plastic container. Have an adult come along to help.
- Collect water that appears relatively clear, without sediment or large amounts of algae.
- Record the appearance of the pond water in your lab notebook.
- Label six Styrofoam cups
- Using your graduated cylinder, place 400 mL of pond water into the cup labeled 1X.
- Place 200 mL of pond water into the remaining cups.
- Now dissolve 15 mL (1 tablespoon) of fertilizer in 4 liters of distilled water in your second plastic container. Call this the 10X (ten times concentrated) fertilizer solution.
Performing a Dilution Series
- Pour 40 mL of the 10X fertilizer solution into the 400 mL of pond water in the cup labeled 1X. Mix the contents in the cup with a clean plastic spoon.
- Transfer 200 mL from the cup labeled 1X to the cup labeled 0.5X. Mix the contents of the 0.5X cup with a clean plastic spoon.
- Transfer 200 mL from the cup labeled 0.5X to the cup labeled 0.25X. Mix the contents of the 0.25X cup with a clean plastic spoon.
- Transfer 200 mL from the cup labeled 0.25X to the cup labeled 0.125X. Mix the contents of the 0.125X cup with a clean plastic spoon.
- Transfer 200 mL from the cup labeled 0.125X to the cup labeled 0.06X. Mix the contents of the 0.06X cup with a clean plastic spoon.
- Transfer 200 mL from the cup labeled 0.06X to a sink or other disposal area.
- The remaining "control" cup should not have any fertilizer.
Observing the Growth of the Algae
- Place the algae cultures in a spot indoors that is well-lit during daylight hours.
After conducting our experiment we found that algal blooms thrive better in warmer conditions due to the fact that they require sunlight, warmth, and nutrients to grow and reproduce.
The impact of our experiment on the community is that we found that algae blooms are very dangerous and hopefully that convinces other highschool students to try and find their own way to fix this big problem. Our solution was that we could convince lake property owners to use less fertilizer in their yards, by talking to our local news station and putting up flyers.. This would cause less phosphate runoff, keeping the lakes, streams, rivers, ect. cleaner, and healthier for aquatic life.