Science Projects: Acid Rain on Plants

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Pollution contributes significantly to the creation of acid rain.
Pollution contributes significantly to the creation of acid rain.

Acid rain refers to the wet and dry deposition of materials that contain abnormally high levels of nitric and sulfuric acids. It has a number of both natural and man-made causes, including the decay of vegetation, volcanoes and the burning of fossil fuels. Acid rain is detrimental to many aspects of the environment, especially plant life.

  1. Growth

    • Conduct an experiment to see how acid rain affects the life and growth of a certain type of plant. Collect at least three samples of your chosen type of plant, such as a philodendron or a begonia, and plant them in three separate pots. Mix a pitcher of water with a certain amount of vinegar to create different levels of acidity in the "rain" for each plant. For example, make one pitcher with a pH of 2 or 3, one with a pH of 4 or 5 and one with a neutral pH of 7 (the control). Pour half a cup of water from each pitcher over its designated plant once a day until you begin to notice differences. Make sure that all other factors, such as the soil, sunlight and ambient temperature are the same for each plant.

    Germination

    • Perform an experiment to test the effects of acid rain on the ability of seeds to sprout and grow. Collect nine to 15 seeds of a certain type of plant, such as tomatoes, corn or a flower, and plant an equal number in three different pots. Mix one pitcher of water with vinegar to get a pH of 3, mix one pitcher to get a pH of 5 and fill one pitcher with pure water that has a pH of 7. Label the pots "1," "2" and "3," and label the pitchers similarly. Pour half a cup of water from each pitcher over its corresponding pot once or twice a day for three weeks, noting when the seeds from various pots sprout and how well they grow.

    Flowering

    • To see how acid rain affects the ability of plants to produce flowers, plant three specimens of a flowering plant in three different pots. The specimens should be nearing the time when they will begin flowering. Water them with water that has different pH levels, such as 3, 5 and 7, making sure that you have a control subject with neutral water and that you use water with the same pH level each time. You can change the pH of water by mixing it with vinegar. Observe the effects of the acidity, noting any discoloration of the leaves and how long it takes the different specimens to flower. Try this with food crops like corn or tomatoes to see how acid rain affects the growth of food.

    Effect on Various Species

    • Determine how different species cope with acid rain by planting a variety of specimens in different pots. Try to pick plants that are not closely related or come from different environments, such as a cactus, an evergreen bush, a hibiscus, a dandelion and a geranium. Collect at least two, preferably three, specimens of each type of plant. Mix a pitcher of water with vinegar so that it has a pH of around 3 or 4. Fill another pitcher with distilled water that has a pH of 7. Water two specimens of each type of plant with the acidic water, using the same amount of water for each one. Water the other specimen of each plant with neutral water, to act as a control. Observe how the different plants react to their acidic environments, comparing them to their control specimen and to each other.

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