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2 BGU Pre-AP Biology & Environmental Science Population Biology

DUCKWEED: AN INTRODUCTION TO ECOLOGY

Duckweeds are a family (Lemnaceae) of floating water plants. The 22 species are common all over
the world, in a wide variety of habitats but are most frequently found in still or slow flowing water,
in ponds and ditches or streams. They are flowering plants but also reproduce by a very rapid form
of a-sexual, vegetative reproduction called budding. Duckweed is easily carried from one habitat to
another, for instance on the feet of birds, and so is commonly an invasive plant species. Apart from
its nuisance value as an invasive species, duckweed is high in protein and is consumed by humans
in Asia. It is also an efficient absorber of phosphates and nitrates from water and might have use as
a form of water purifier.

Duckweed invasion on Lake Maracaibo in Venezuela, 2004:


http://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/IOTD/view.
php?id=4654

The a-sexual growth of duckweed in ideal


conditions, can approach exponential rates.
Growth will not be truly exponential since
there is a limit to the number of buds which
can be produced on one frond and fronds die
after a short time. A colony of duckweed
might double in size in 3 or 4 days in ideal
conditions.

The most usual method of measuring growth of duckweed is to count fronds. (The fronds of
duckweed look like small leaves floating on the surface but are actually adapted stems of the plant.)
Most duckweed research depends on frond counts. Counting fronds is relatively easy but can take
considerable time.

When counting fronds, it is the accepted


procedure to count every visible frond,
even the tips of small new fronds that are
just beginning to emerge from the pocket
of the mother frond. The "blackboard"
drawing shows an example with several
fronds in different orientations and stages
of growth, and with two plants connected
by a stipe (stipule). Every tiny individual,
budded clone should be counted as one
independent frond. A magnifying glass is
usually necessary to count duckweed
fronds. It is all too easy to miss fronds or
count them twice. Placing a square-ruled
sheet of paper beneath the culture can help
to reduce counting errors.
2 BGU Pre-AP Biology & Environmental Science Population Biology

AN INVESTIGATION INTO THE GROWTH RATE OF DUCKWEED.

What conditions (abiotic factors) could you investigate with duckweed?

• Nutrients – fertiliser present, loose soil mixed in water, nitrates, phosphates


• Light – intensity, colour, length of “day”
• Toxins present – heavy metals such as copper (present as copper (II) nitrate), detergent,
motor oil, weed killer
• Water – temperature, disturbance
• Salinity

GENERAL AIM: Choose one of the abiotic conditions above and investigate how does that abiotic
factor influence the growth of duckweed over 7 days? You will need to set up two experimental
samples, one of which is the control, not influenced by the abiotic factor.

YOUR TASK: Using simple apparatus, design a method to investigate the above aim. You will
need to plan (using the planning format) and write a lab report on your practical investigation,
including the following things:

PLANNING
• Completed planning sheet 2 points
• Write a suitable hypothesis 2
• Identify the variables 2
• Identify the apparatus 2
• Develop a usable method 2 TOTAL 10

LAB REPORT
• Record data in an appropriate table 2 points
• Treat the data from a table by making two
graphs of the results 2
• Make a valid and justified conclusion to the experiment 2
• Evaluate the investigation and identify the sources of error,
and suggest improvements 2
• Communicate your investigation 2 TOTAL 10

TIMETABLE:
• Wednesday 27th November : Introduction & Planning investigation
• Monday 2nd December: Set up investigation
• Through Monday 9th December: Recording results
• Wednesday 11th December: Graph, Evaluation and delivery
• (Following week - communication)