DIVINE SAVIOR HOLY ANGELS HIGH SCHOOL. How does Acid Rain affect Red Worm s Burrowing location?

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1 DIVINE SAVIOR HOLY ANGELS HIGH SCHOOL How does Acid Rain affect Red s Burrowing location? Mary Frances Feldmeier 2/19/2014

2 Divine Savior Holy Angles High School 1 Abstract: Sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides combine with water vapor to create acid rain affecting ecosystems throughout the world. This lab focuses on if red worms are able to detect acid rain and whether or not that affects where they tend to live and burrow. After ecosystems receive long term exposure to acid rain, the soil loses its buffering ability and many nutrients. Red worms are negatively affected by exposure to acid rain because red worms need these nutrients for survival. The following lab consists of two experiments. First, the lab tests whether acid rain directly affects red worms and if they have a strong, medium, low, or no reaction to the acid. The second experiment determines if red worms are able to detect acid rain within soil and if they choose to live in that soil. This lab concludes that red worms have a mild reaction to direct acid rain and that they are unable to detect acid rain in potting soil. Potting soil buffers the acid rain and thus decreases the initial affect. Based on the following experiments, red worms have minimal reaction to acid rain when briefly exposed to it in small amounts. Introduction: When the weather forecast says beware acid rain, one might think that the sky will start raining acid. Acid is present in the rainfall, however, it does not come from the clouds like normal rain. Acid rain is actually created by the combustion of fossil fuels. Sulfur dioxide (SO2) and nitrogen oxides (NOx) combine with water vapor to make airborne sulfuric acid (H2SO4) and nitric acid (HNO3) ultimately creating acid rain (USGS Water Science School). Sulfuric dioxide is created by the burning of fossil fuels via factories and nitrogen oxides are created from car s exhausts. High levels of acid rain (low ph level) are common in parts of a country housing a large number of cities, dense population, and power and industrial plants (National Geographic). Acid rain is prevalent almost everywhere because it can travel through lakes,

3 Divine Savior Holy Angles High School 2 rivers, streams, wind, and soil many ecosystems throughout the world. Acid rain reduces the alkalinity (buffering capacity) [in rivers, streams, and lakes] and increases the acidity of the water (National Geographic). This acidic increase affects most living organisms in the lakes and streams because it destroys their habitat. s and other soft-bodied invertebrates are more likely to affect by acid rain because of their soft body and thin membrane. The death of worms affects other living organisms that are above the worms in the food chain because worms are both decomposers and a food supply. The following lab focuses on whether acid rain affects where red worms choose to live and burrow. Based on the first experiment, red worms have either a mild or strong reaction to the ph 4 solution, which is very acidic. This leads to the assumption that red worms would avoid soil that contains traces of ph 4 (HCl) in order to maintain a healthy life. If red worms are placed in a container filled with soil, moistened with various levels of ph solutions (HCl) and left overnight to burrow, then the red worms will come to rest in the soil that contains a ph level of six or seven because the red worms can sense the levels of ph solution and will choose to avoid high concentrations that would result in harm. Materials: 1. ph 7 solution (distilled water) 2. ph 6 solution (HCl) 3. ph 5 solution (HCl) 4. ph 4 solution (HCl) 5. Two ant farms 6. 4 pipettes minimum 7. Potting soil

4 Divine Savior Holy Angles High School 3 8. Safety goggles 9. Gloves 10. Pencil 11. Paper red worms 13. Holding station for worms (cup, bowl, etc.) Methods/Procedure: *Make sure to wear safety goggles and gloves at all times to avoid irritation from the acidic solutions. Experiment 1: 1. First take apart an ant farm so that the two clear plastic pieces are the only things left. 2. Second make a circle of dots, in the center of each side of the plastic pieces, with the ph7 solution (distilled water). Then put the red worm in the middle of the circle and wait till it moves into the liquid dots. After the red worm comes in contact with the acid, observe its reaction which will be high, medium, low, or no reaction. 3. Using two different red worms, repeat this step 2, one more time with the same ph concentration. Then clean off the plastic pieces and place the red worm in a holding station. 4. Repeat step 2-3, three more times each with a different ph level (ph 6, ph 5, and ph 7). Record all results. Experiment 2: 1. Make sure the ant farms are clean. Disassemble one. Lay one side flat on the table. 2. Leaving a 4cm space at one end spread a thin layer of soil across the side. 3. Repeat steps one and two with the second ant farm. Set aside the second ant farm for now.

5 Divine Savior Holy Angles High School 4 4. On the first ant farm, use a ruler to mark the sections in the potting soil, measuring four equal sections (4.5cm each). 5. With the first ant farm, use individual pipettes to place the ph solutions in the potting soil. Each ph level should have its own section of potting soil and its own pipette to avoid altering final results. The neutral ph (ph7 or distilled water) should be placed in the section closest to the space without potting soil. The second should contain a ph of six, the next a ph of five, and the final section, a ph of four. 6. Place two red worms in the 4cm empty space near the neutral potting soil on each side of the ant farm. 7. Keep the potting soil and red worms in between the two plastic pieces and assemble the ant farm. 8. Set aside the first ant farm. 9. Take the second ant farm and moisten the potting soil with distilled water (ph7). This is the control. 10. Place two red worms in the 4cm empty space on each side of the ant farm. 11. Keeping the potting soil and red worms in between the two plastic sides, assemble the ant farm. 12. Allow all red worms to burrow overnight. Store the ant farms vertically to simulate the depth of earth soil. 13. The next morning, observe the red worms final burrowing depths. Record the ph level of the soil that each red worm remains in. 14. Repeat steps 1-13, about three more times.

6 Divine Savior Holy Angles High School 5 Pictures: Picture 1: This picture is the correct set-up for experiment one. Each side of the any farm has a circle of acid (HCL) so that when the red worm is placed in the center, it has no other choice but to touch the acid. Picture 2: This picture shows the set-up for experiment two for both the control and the varied ph containers. The red worms were placed in the 4cm empty space before the soil. The green stuff in the picture is lettuce in case the red worms get hungry.

7 Divine Savior Holy Angles High School 6 Picture 3: This picture shows the red worms in experiment two after the first day. The red worms burrowed to the soil with ph 7 and ph 5. Data: s Reactions to Various ph Levels: Experiment One (Figure 1)

8 Divine Savior Holy Angles High School 7 Control container (ph7) Varied ph container Distance Burrowed in a Controlled Ecosystem and in Acid Rain Ecosystems: Experiment Two (Figure 2) cm 16cm 16cm 9cm 13cm 18cm 15cm No Data was taken No Data was taken No Data was taken No Data was taken Average Length 14cm 13cm 5cm 7cm 15cm 19cm 18cm 18cm 11cm 18cm 16cm 14cm 14cm ph7 ph6 ph5 ph4 Red 1 No reaction Low reaction Mild reaction High reaction Red 2 No reaction Low reaction Mild reaction Mild reaction Red 3 No reaction No reaction Mild reaction Mild reaction

9 Divine Savior Holy Angles High School 8 Average Length of Burrowing Length of burrowing (cm) Control Container (ph7) Varied ph Container (ph4-7) Burrowing containers for red worms Final ph Location (Figure 3) # of observations Total ph7 / 1 ph6 / 1 ph5 //// 4 ph4 ///// 5

10 Divine Savior Holy Angles High School 9 How different ph levels of soil affect red worm's locations 6 Number of red worms living in the soil ph 7 ph 6 ph 5 ph 4 ph levels in soil Results: Experiment 1: According to experiment 1, red worms display either high, mild, low, or no reactions when in direct contact with various ph levels. A high reaction means that the red worms quickly recoiled after directly touching the ph solution. Mild and low reactions refer to the speed at which the red worms retreated after coming in contact with the solutions. No reaction refers to a red worm that touched the solution, but proceeded to crawl through it or rested in it without recoiling away from it. As seen in Figure 1, none of the red worms reacted to contact with a ph level of 7 (distilled water). At a ph level of 6, two red worms reacted mildly while one red worm

11 Divine Savior Holy Angles High School 10 did not react at all. When in contact with a ph level of 5, all red worms displayed mild reactions. Two mild reactions and one high reaction were recorded when the red worms came in direct contact with a ph level of 4. As the ph level increased, the red worms were more likely to display a reaction. Experiment 2: Figure 3 and Figure 4 present the depths at which each red worm burrowed. The average distance burrowed for both the control group and the experimental group is 14cm deep. The shallowest distance a red worm burrowed was 5cm deep. The deepest that a red worm burrowed was 19cm. According to figure 4, red worms in the experimental group burrowed deeper than those in the control group. In addition to the depth at which the red worms settled, the ph level apparent in the potting soil of the red worm s resting area was recorded. The most red worms, five, settled in the section of potting soil contaminated with a ph level of 4. Only one red worm was found in both ph levels of 6 and 7. Four red worms came to rest in potting soil containing a ph level of 5. Analysis: Results from experiment 1 prove that red worms do not like ph levels above neutral. Because they are invertebrates with thin membrane-like skin, the acidic solutions greatly affect the red worms bodies. When the red worm comes in direct contact with the solutions, it is easily absorbed through their thin skins. The solution enters the body, causing discomfort or pain, signaling the body to move away from the solution. This is why red worms recoiled when they came in contact with a solution containing a ph level of 4.

12 Divine Savior Holy Angles High School 11 The results of experiment 1 suggest that red worms would avoid potting soil containing a ph level of 4 because the red worms all displayed reactions to the solution. This means that the red worms most likely felt pain, causing them to recoil. However, the results from experiment 2 found that the most red worms settled in a layer of potting soil containing a ph level of 4. Perhaps this is because the potting soil acts as a buffer. The red worm, therefore, cannot sense the acidic contamination and comes to rest in that soil. During this lab, the ant farms were placed vertically overnight. This could explain the depths to which the red worms burrowed. In the ground, red worms burrow deep, churning the soil and providing nutrients to plants roots, deep within the soil. Due to an atmospheric sense, the red worms may have burrowed deep because that is what they do naturally. The lab set up simulated the ground which is why the red worms were compelled to burrow as deep as possible. Conclusion: s are at the bottom of the food chain. They provide nourished soil for plants to thrive. However, when acid rain infiltrates the ground, this could alter the balance of nature. Acid rain essentially causes a presence of excess sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide. This is harmful to soft bodied invertebrates, including worms. With this in mind: If worms are placed in a container filled with soil, moistened with various levels of ph solutions (HCl) and left overnight to burrow, then the worms will come to rest in the soil that contains a ph level of six or seven because the worms can sense the levels of ph solution and will choose to avoid high concentrations that would result in harm. Based on the first experiment, worms have either a mild or strong reaction to the ph 4 solution, which is very acidic. This leads to the assumption that worms would avoid soil that contains traces of ph 4 HCl in order to maintain a healthy life. However, the potting soil used in this experiment could possibly buffer the effects of an

13 Divine Savior Holy Angles High School 12 acidic ph solution, allowing the worms to comfortably pass through the soil. In the end, though, the worms should come back to rest in soil containing traces of ph 7 and ph 6 HCl. Experiment 2 failed to support this hypothesis. The estimated resting area for the worms was at a ph level of either 6 or 7, however, the results collected who that most worms were found in ph levels of 4 or 5. The experiment suggests that worms prefer to live in areas with low levels of ph. This may have occurred because the potting soil acted as a buffer, lessoning the initial harm of the acidic solution. Another reason this happened might be result of worms natural burrowing sense. Because the ant farms were stored vertically, simulating soil within the ground, the worms burrowed as deep as possible, just as they would in the ground. While the worms may not have sensed the low ph levels, they are still exposing themselves to potential bodily damage. In small doses, acid rain may not kill worms indirectly, through the soil. However, over an extended period of time, the buildup of such chemicals within the body will most likely cause harmful effects. If this becomes reality, then worms will no longer thrive in existence. Healthy soil will deplete and plants will suffer, eliminating the healthy environments present in the U.S. Without worms, small creatures lose a food source. High concentrations of acid rain have the potential of destroying entire ecosystems if worms cannot identify it in soils and live their lives exposed to this element. Question/Further Studies: Our lab studied and tested whether red worms can detect different levels of acid rain in soil if so, does that affect where they choose to live and burrow. Although this is the only problem answered in this lab, there are multiple other questions that arise after finishing this lab. For example: How does the acid rain affect the insides of a red worm? Can other living

14 Divine Savior Holy Angles High School 13 organisms detect different levels of acid rain? How long does acid rain stay in the soil or does it evaporate after a couple of days? Consideration: As students of Divine Savior Holy Angels High School, we would like to thank SEPA coordinators and the University of Wisconsin- Milwaukee professors for helping us make this lab a success. Works Cited: 1. "Acid Rain: Do You Need to Start Wearing a Rainhat?" Acid Rain, from USGS Water Science School. U.S. Department of the Interior, 10 Jan Web. 19 Feb "Acid Rain." National Geographic. National Geographic Society, n.d. Web. 16 Feb "Effects of Acid Rain." Effects of Acid Rain. N.p., n.d. Web. 18 Feb "Effects of Air Pollution & Acid Rain on Wildlife." Effects of Air Pollution & Acid Rain on Wildlife. N.p., n.d. Web. 18 Feb "Environmental Effects of Acid Rain." EPA. Environmental Protection Agency, 19 Sept Web. 18 Feb

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