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Introduction
The survival and adaptability of flora is dependent on many variables,
with water in the form of precipitation as one of the most important
necessities for a plants success. Without proper precipitation, plants may
not achieve optimal conditions for growth and/or reproduction. Precipitation
can be unpredictable, constantly changing due to the mercurial nature of our
planet. One cause for concern in regards to precipitation is the vast amount
of sulfur oxides and nitrogen oxides released into the atmosphere by
electrical generating plants. (Campbell et al, 2008) Condensation traveling
across the globe filters the air and deposits its collection wherever it can;
cleaning itself of the pollution gathered. This changes the chemistry of rain
when pollutants combine with water to form acids, thereby lowering the pH
of freshwater lakes and streams, and affecting soil. (Campbell et al, 2008)
In the experiment we will simulate the effects of acid rain by observing the
growth of sunflowers watered with several solutions representing possible
rainwater pH.
Procedures
Deionized water and distilled white vinegar with a pH of 2.6 were used
to produce three separate solutions, to represent 20% acid rain, 5% acid
rain, and 1% acid rain. Unadulterated deionized water, and 100% distilled
white vinegar were also used as experimental rainwater. A pH meter was
used to record the pH for each solution, as well as the deionized water and
the white vinegar. The growing medium used for all five samples was from
the same bag of SCOTTS Miracle-Gro Seed Starting Potting Mix and the
sunflower seeds also came from the same bag passed between all the
groups.
Three decomposable pots were used for each rainwater sample. Each
pot was filled with the potting mix and saturated thoroughly until the pots
themselves were visibly soaked. Seeds were placed approximately one
centimeter below the surface of the soil, covered lightly with more of the soil
mixture and soaked again. The pots were held in black plastic trays and
covered with clear plastic tops to facilitate growth. The seeds were left to
germinate at room temperature under moderate lighting. After five days had
elapsed, observations were made regarding germination and growth.
Watering was monitored by the lab assistant daily, and intermittently by the
lab students. After fourteen days, final observations regarding germination
and growth were made and all data was recorded.







Results
Table 1. Average growth of sunflower seeds under acid rain conditions
pH of solution Percent seed
germination
Average plant
growth (cm)
7.0 100 4.2
5.9 100 14.3
3.9 66.7 2.0
3.3 0 0
2.6 0 0










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14
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7 5.9 3.9 3.4 2.6
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(
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m
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pH of solution
Figure 1. Growth of sunflower seeds relative
to decreasing pH of rainwater
Conclusions and Discussion
Both table 1 and figure 1 demonstrate the cause and effect
relationship between the increasing acidity of rainwater and the stunted
growth of the sunflower seeds, particularly at a pH of 3.9, which had limited
growth in two out of three seeds, while one of the three seeds did not
germinate. Both table 1 and figure 1 also show the inability of sunflower
seeds to germinate when watered with solutions at pH 3.4 and pH 2.6.
Germination of all seeds did occur, however, in the sample watered with the
5.9 pH solution, as well as the sample watered with the neutral, pH 7.0
solution.
Seeds watered with the 5.9 pH solution had slightly more than three
times the average growth compared with samples watered with the neutral
solution, and the same seeds had just over seven times more average
growth than those grown using the 3.9 pH solution. The average growth of
the seeds watered with 5.9 pH solution may be attributed to the fact that
uncontaminated rainwater has a pH of approximately 5.5, which more
closely resembles the plants natural growing conditions.
Although the outcome of the experiment was successful in that it
portrayed how acid precipitation stunts plant growth and negates seed
germination as acidity increases, (pH decreases) several issues may affect
data outcomes. Climate is a significant factor in promoting growth, and
should be accounted for when linking acid rain to plant growth. Other
factors, including over or under watering of seeds, lack of sufficient light for
plant photosynthesis, and soil characteristics could possibly skew results.
Acid deposition in the form of sulfur oxides (SO
x
) and nitrogen oxides
(NO
x
), are a major concern to ecological systems worldwide. Environmental
standards over the past several decades have increased due to the
understanding of how acid rain is formed, as well as its adverse effects on
flora and fauna. Studies currently underway include a multifaceted approach
to data collection, which allows for a broader understanding of how
ecosystems cope with above normal rainfall acidity, and brings insight into
how manmade causes of acid precipitation can be successfully counteracted.












References
Campbell, N.A., Reece, J.B., Urry, L.A., Cain, M.L., Wasserman, S.A.,
Minorsky, P.V., Jackson, R.B. (2008). Biology. San Fransisco:
Pearson Benjamin Cummings.