Soil and Acid Rain. Evaluation copy. Figure 1: Typical Rain ph in United States

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1 Soil and Acid Rain Computer 8 Acid rain can be very harmful to the environment. It can kill fish by lowering the ph of lakes and rivers. It can harm trees and plants by burning their leaves and depriving them of nutrients. In addition, it can weather away stone buildings and monuments. But why is it more of a problem in some places than others? To answer this question, let s first look at how rain becomes acidic. Carbon dioxide, CO 2, is a gas found naturally in the air. When CO 2 dissolves into rain droplets, it produces a weak acid called carbonic acid, H 2 CO 3. This makes rain slightly acidic naturally. Rain of ph 5 to 6 is common and does not generally cause any problems. When fossil fuels are burned, however, gases such as sulfur dioxide, SO 2, are released into the air. When sulfur dioxide dissolves into rain droplets, sulfuric acid, H 2 SO 4, is formed. This rain can be as acidic as ph 4. Figure 1 shows the trend of rain ph in the United States in a typical year. Notice that the most acidic rain occurs over and downwind of heavily populated and industrialized areas. Figure 1: Typical Rain ph in United States Not every location that receives acid rain has a problem. Some soils contain substances that will help neutralize acid rain. These substances, called buffers, are commonly composed of limestone, calcium carbonate, or calcium bicarbonate. They also help stabilize the ph to protect it from future ph fluctuations. Farmers and foresters sometimes increase the buffering capacity, the ability of their soil to neutralize the acid, by adding a buffer such as limestone to the soil. This process is called liming. Liming not only provides nutrients needed by plants, it also increases the buffering capacity of soils so that the damage from acid rain is reduced. In this experiment, you will use a ph Sensor to measure the ph of acid rain. You will then allow the acid rain to filter through two different types of soil. The run-off will be collected and its ph retested to determine your soil s buffering capacity. Evaluation copy OBJECTIVES In this experiment, you will Use a ph Sensor to measure the ph of acid rain. Use a ph Sensor to measure the change in ph as acid rain passes through soil. Interpret your results. Earth Science with Vernier 8-1

2 Computer 8 MATERIALS computer Vernier computer interface Logger Pro ph Sensor two 250 ml beakers waste cup funnel (top half of milk jug) 2 coffee filters acid rainwater 2 soil samples wash bottle with distilled water plastic spoon PROCEDURE 1. Connect the ph Sensor to the Vernier computer interface. Important: For this experiment your teacher already has the ph Sensor in ph soaking solution in a beaker; be careful not to tip over the beaker when connecting the sensor to the interface. 2. Prepare the computer for data collection by opening the file 08 Soil and Acid Rain from the Earth Science with Vernier folder. 3. Obtain approximately 100 ml of acid rainwater in a beaker. 4. Measure the ph of the acid rainwater. a. Place the tip of the ph Sensor into the acid rainwater. Make sure the glass bulb at the tip of the sensor is totally covered by the water. b. When the ph value is stable, record it in your data table. c. Hold the ph Sensor over the waste cup and rinse the tip with distilled water. Figure 2 5. Prepare the soil. a. Set the funnel (top half of milk jug) on top of the beaker as shown in Figure 3. b. Place a coffee filter in the funnel. c. Add four heaping teaspoons of Soil A to the filter. Make sure the soil is covering the bottom of the filter but do not pack it down. Figure 3 Figure Earth Science with Vernier

3 6. Slowly pour the 100 ml of acid rainwater you just tested over the soil in the filter. Soil and Acid Rain 7. When enough rainwater has filtered into the beaker, (it must be deep enough to cover the glass bulb at the tip of the sensor), insert the ph Sensor into the beaker as shown in Figure If the ph reading is stable, simply record the value in your data table and proceed to Step If the reading is fluctuating, determine the mean (or average) value. To do this: a. Click to begin a 10 second sampling run. Important: Leave the probe tip submerged for the 10 seconds that data is being collected. b. When the sampling run is complete, click on the Statistics button,, to display the statistics box on the graph. c. Record the mean ph value in your data table. 10. Rinse the ph Sensor, beaker, and funnel with distilled water and repeat Steps 3 9 using Soil B. DATA Sample A Sample B ph of rainwater before soil contact ph of rainwater after soil contact Change in ph of rainwater PROCESSING THE DATA 1. Calculate the change in ph for each sample and record them in your data table. 2. Did the rainwater get more acidic, less acidic, or stay the same for each sample? 3. Which of the two soil samples is a better ph buffer? Why? 4. If you lived in an area that has acid rain, which of the two soil samples would you rather have in your yard and why? Earth Science with Vernier 8-3

4 Computer 8 EXTENSIONS 1. Test soil samples from your backyard or another environment and compare to your first results. Are the results the same or different? Try to explain why. 2. Chemicals can be added to soil to give it more buffering capacity. Investigate what is used at your local nursery and experiment with its use. 8-4 Earth Science with Vernier

5 Vernier Lab Safety Instructions Disclaimer THIS IS AN EVALUATION COPY OF THE VERNIER STUDENT LAB. This copy does not include: Safety information Essential instructor background information Directions for preparing solutions Important tips for successfully doing these labs The complete Earth Science with Vernier lab manual includes 33 labs, 6 projects, and essential teacher information. The full lab book is available for purchase at: Vernier Software & Technology S.W. Millikan Way Beaverton, OR Toll Free (888) (503) FAX (503)

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