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Ecozone Lab Write Up

By: Ismael Shahid Abadin, Rohit Dhoom Duda, Mackenzie Kaye Hooper, and Ronald Cecil
Advanced Placement Environmental Science
Mrs. Moore
Block 4


Ismael Abadin:

Rohit Duda:
Sources of Error

Mackenzie Hooper:
Background Information

Ronald Lingat:
Background information
Sources of Error

The purpose of this experiment was to essentially determine how three inherently
different ecosystems--aquatic, terrestrial, and decomposition--coexist and interact with each
other. Through the use of three interconnected chambers, each provided and consumed resources
for the others, such as how the terrestrial ecosystem provided oxygen for the guppies in the
aquatic chamber to consume, or how the aquatic ecosystem would moisten both the terrestrial
and decomposition chambers through lengths of string draped through the connecting holes in
chamber walls.
The terrestrial chamber consisted of a large tomato plant (primary producer), soil, gravel,
and 25-30 ladybugs. The aquatic chamber consisted of an algae-producing plant, which the
suckyfish fed off of, and three other small guppies, and the decomposition chamber was filled
with lettuce, apples, and soil, which was intended to be decomposed by the nightcrawlers placed
in with the soil.
For the most part, the data collected from this experiment supported the hypotheses made
by group pertaining to the interactions between each chamber. For example, the combination of
the tomato and aquatic plants only produced enough oxygen to keep 2 fish alive for the majority
of the experiment; two guppies died early on in the experiment, due to a combination of
temperature shock and a lack of oxygen. The data also provides a small platform in which to
generalize hypotheses about interactions between all ecosystems in the environment, as these
results can be expanded to apply to much larger environmental interactions.

The purpose of this experiment was to examine the varying types of relations between
three different ecozones and analyzing the distinct effects each had on the others. This was
accomplished by observing the effects of three interconnected, simulated ecosystem chambers-aquatic, decomposition, and terrestrial.
An ecozone refers to the varying aspects of a large area of environment with similar
geography and organic life. As such, ecozones can be used as a sort of sample or model of a
much larger environment in order to study the processes that occur between each aspect of said
environment. Ecozones are categorized in a way that allow students of science to observe and
study specific aspects of our environment individually, in a controlled environment away from
the sometimes unpredictable factors that our natural world has. As individual ecozones are
usually linked with others of specific types, they allow us to observe the effects and influences a
specific set of ecozones have on each other. As a result, it differs from an outside ecosystem, for
an external ecosystem is continuously exposed to and is affected by the worldwide biospheres
natural processes. Ecozones are only affected by others linked to them, without any invasive
action from mother nature; except for maybe the occasional man-made rain sprinkled on the
ecozones to simulate precipitation. However, our human-spawned invasivity stops at the rain
in order to yield the most accurate data. In addition, due to its isolation, an ecozone is usually a
closed system, so that its observers are able to accurately gather the needed data. The series of
ecozones do not allow for a transfer of energy or substance with the outside environment,
assuring an accurate and predictable exchange that remains specific to the data collected. The
data was collected through the testing of various aspects of the water from our aquatic

ecosystem. This includes dissolved oxygen (D.O.), temperature, pH, turbidity, nitrates,
phosphates, and odor. This data is significant because it proves the health of the ecosystem and
can give explanations as to why the ecosystems acted the way they did. The health of the
organisms and the success of the ecozone rely on the specific data collected. For example,
extremely low or high concentrations of dissolved oxygen can be harmful to aquatic life and
possibly give them diseases or cause increased levels of stress. ( on D.O.) There are
similar results from extreme pH levels. High nitrate and phosphate levels typically promote
excessive growth of algae. As the algae die and decompose, high levels of organic matter and the
decomposition of organisms deplete the water of available oxygen and cause the death of other
organisms, such as fish. (Eutrophication) Another result, anoxia/hypoxia, is a lack of oxygen
caused by excessive nutrients in the water which triggers algae growth. When the plants decay,
oxygen is removed from the water, which then turns green or milky white and gives off a strong
rotten egg odor. For fish, the lack of oxygen is often deadly. (Wheatly River Improvement
Group) The odor (pungency) of the water also showed the levels of phosphates/nitrates because
of the algae present in the aquatic ecosystem.

There were three ecozones, an aquatic, decomposer, and terrestrial. Our hypotheses were
based on how each ecosystem would affect the other as well as how well the ecosystems did on
their own.
Terrestrial effects on Aquatic:
The tomato plant in the terrestrial ecosystem would produce large amounts of oxygen for
the aquatic ecosystem, which, although containing an aquatic plant of its own, could not produce
sufficient oxygen to sustain three small guppies and a large suckyfish. It was also conjectured
that the ladybugs would travel through the small holes connecting the chambers and either die or
feed on bits of the plant.
Terrestrial effects on Decomposer:
The terrestrial ecosystem should not affect the decomposition system very much. Some
dead organic matter from the ladybugs may add to the compost for the nightcrawlers, but overall,
there should not be a great change. The terrestrial ecosystem may provide the decomposition
system with some oxygen, but not a lot. We hazarded that the terrestrial ecosystem will not
change the decomposition system very much.
Terrestrial Ecosystem:
In the beginning it was believed that most of the ladybugs would not survive. The group
made this conjecture based on the fact that there were no aphids for the ladybugs to feed on.
Thus, their primary food source would have been the tomato plant. Since ladybugs do not mainly
feed on leafy, green vegetation (as it is not their preferred food), it was thought many of the
ladybugs would die. However, it was hypothesized that because the ladybugs preferred food
choice was not the tomato plant, the tomato plant would be able to survive longer.

Aquatic Ecosystem:
Three main observations were made about this ecosystem, and three hypotheses based on
them. The first observation that was made was that the tank was rather small for the four fish,
and due to this overcrowding, our group supposed that one or two of the guppies would die.
Also, based on our research, it was uncovered that in order for guppies to survive, the nitrogen
cycle must be in place for three weeks before. Finally, since the guppies were put in the water
immediately, the guppies were temperature shocked. The second observation we made was on
the algae of the plant. Based on the research, it was discovered that suckyfish feed on algae, and
since there was algae on the plant, it was assumed that the suckyfish would feed on the plants
algae. Our third observation was based on the oxygen consumption and intake. Since there were
two primary producers in the ecozones, we thought the levels of oxygen would very high. There
was oxygen filtering through the holes of the terrestrial ecosystem as well as an aquatic producer,
so it would stand to reason that our oxygen levels would be sufficient to sustain our organisms.
It was predicted that the changes in the ecosystem would be drastic for the first few days.
The nightcrawlers would decompose the dead organic material very fast first, then decompose


tap water
aquatic plant
algae tablet

dechlorination drops
3 guppies
fish food flakes
one string leading to the terrestrial chamber
one string leading to the decomposition chamber

tomato plant
tap water

tap water
night crawlers (worms)

Terrestrial Ecosystem:

Fill the tank with about an inch or an inch and a half of gravel. Aquarium gravel should suffice.
Put about five to six shovelfuls of soil into the ecozone tank. Make sure to wet the soil.
Take the tomato plant and gently remove it from the container.
Part the soil in the container and put the tomato plant in.
Take about 50 ladybugs and place them inside of the ecozone. Make sure to carefully seal all of

the holes as the ladybugs will and can escape.

6.) If the ladybugs act dead for the first few days, do not worry. After the first couple of days of
dormancy they resume normal activities. Keep in mind however, some of them might actually
have died.
7.) Sprinkle the ecosystem with water if desired, if the soil appears to be becoming very dry.
Aquatic Ecosystem:

Fill the ecozone tank approximately with water. Do not use deionized water.
Add 2 to 3 dechlorination drops.
Let the water sit until it reaches room temperature.
Place the bag with the fish in until the water has reached about room temperature both inside and


Let the fish out of the bag. Make sure you do not force the fish out, let them swim out naturally.
Feed the fish periodically with algae tablets.
Put the aquatic plant in as well.
The plant should not be covered fully in water, Some of the leaves should still stick out of the

9.) Measure the amounts of nitrates and phosphates in the water regularly (once every two to three
days). If desired, measure the nitrates and phosphates daily.
Decomposer Ecosystem:
1.) Fill the tank with about potting soil. Miracle Gro potting soil or any name brand potting soil
should be fine.
2.) Put 12 nightcrawlers in the soil.
3.) Mix up the nightcrawlers so they are completely covered in the soil.

4.) Put a few peels of apples, some celery, and cabbage leftovers in the cage. The experiment used
the above ingredients, but as the worms will feed on most anything, any decomposable food will
be fine.
5.) Observe the amount of apples, celery, etc left in the cage after each day. In the first few days
the changes will not be obvious, but over time the effects of the decomposers will become better
6.) If needed or wanted, sprinkle the dirt with a little water, so that the soil remains moist, and does
not dry up.



Temp C













3 pungency








5 pungency








7 pungency








10 pungency








10 pungency

Note: ------ means that there was not enough time or the data was not collected
Error: During our data collection there might have been a few discrepancies. When collecting
data, fingerprints may have been (but were not usually) left on the tubes, during testing for
nitrates and phosphates.

In order to
streamline data
collection and gather accurate results, our ecozones were not as complex as the ecosystems
found out in the natural world. In reality, ecosystems sustain organisms that that belong to
several different niches and affect other species directly and/or indirectly. Also, in the natural
world, human impact is apparent throughout its every aspect, predator-prey relationships
between species is rampant and complex, and affected areas and surfaces are much greater. In the
terrestrial ecosystem, there was a primary producer, the tomato plant, and a primary consumer,
the ladybugs. Compared to a garden ecosystem, this relationship is not very complex. The food
chains in the ecozones could not have been very complex as the organisms had limited oxygen,
maneuverability, and may not have had adequate food. No food webs could have been examined,

as food webs are generally very complex and require many interspecies relationships, on many
different trophic levels.
The ecozones contained many organisms; however, due to the lack of space and area, a
secondary terrestrial consumer was not included. The aquatic ecozone included an aquatic plant
to add to the impact of the producers, which also affected the terrestrial chamber. In addition, the
aquatic system included three guppies and a suckyfish as primary consumers. One organism that
was not noticed was the algae the guppies fed on. These grew on the aquatic plant (which was
bought from PetCo), which may have contained microorganisms that spurned algae growth. In
the decomposer ecosystem, nightcrawlers and earthworms were simply placed to decompose the
Apart from the obvious difference in complexity, the ecozones also showed many
differences from the natural world, of which they are partial ecological islands of. In the wild,
ecosystems that contain species of variable and adaptable diet tend to fare better than ecosystems
containing species that specifically feed on one species. In other words, an ecosystem that has
complex predator-prey relationships will generally be more productive than an ecosystem with a
single food chain (food web vs. food chain). In addition, these kinds of environments generally
tend to last longer and adapt to the changing world around them. However, these ecozones were
extremely simple in comparison--there were only primary producers and consumers. This may
have contributed to the fact that the ecozones were generally not as successful as actual
Our observations yielded results that pointed to the gradual growth of turbidity, which
eventually gave way to a gradual decrease. This may have been caused by the activity of the
ladybugs. As the ecozones were closed to the outside, but not to each other, the ladybugs crawled

through the holes of the ecozones. They may have put feces in the water or simply stirred up the
water by swimming in it, which may have caused the spike in turbidity early on in the
experiment. However, as the ladybugs either died off or settled into the chambers, they may have
caused the turbidity to decrease.
The ladybugs in the terrestrial zone exhibited very strange behavior that can only be
partly explained. When 50 or so ladybugs were placed in terrestrial ecozone on the first day, they
behaved as expected. It was assumed that because they were in a new environment they were
slightly stressed, but normal. They were not as active, but it was apparent that they were not
dead. On the next day, observations led to our assumptions that at least half of them had died.
However, throughout the week, we observed that they seemed to be coming back to life. A
possible explanation for this could be that the new environment could have put so much stress on
them, that they had gone into shock. However, as the surviving ladybugs got used to the
environment, they became more active.
In the aquatic ecozones, results showed that two of our fish died within the first two days.
This occurred due to a combination of low oxygen levels and an unsafe water temperature.
Guppies need about a 72-78 degrees Fahrenheit (22-25 degrees Celsius) environment to live in;
however, our data states that the initial temperature of the aquatic chamber was 26.1 degrees
Celsius. This was too hot to for the guppies to survive, and as a result, two of the guppies died.
However, the water temperature decreased gradually into the 22-25 degree range, allowing one
of the guppies to survive.
In the ecozones, it was observed that the pungency steadily grew. This is most likely due
to the anoxia/hypoxia effect. Although the food most likely began growing mold and steadily
producing it throughout the experiments duration, possibly contributing to increased levels of

pungency, it was most likely not the main cause. The main cause of the growth in pungency most
likely was the death of the two fish. In the tank, they began to continuously deteriorate and
eventually died; however, their deaths were not noticed until almost 24 hours later, due to our
given intervals of study. These deaths, most likely caused by the growth of nutrient-robbing
algae, may have caused a dramatic increase in pungency by triggering the anoxia/hypoxia
processes. After death, their decaying bodies caused a massive influx of nutrients that robbed the
water of even more oxygen, which in turn lead to the decaying of the plant producers. As the
plants decayed, a strong rotting odor was produced, thus continuously increasing pungency
levels. Although the decomposition chamber and the fishes deaths were not the only factors
contributing to the pungency, we can infer that these were at least two causes of the increase in
However, the most intriguing result produced by this experiment was that despite the fact
that many other groups experienced complete fish extinction, our ecosystem only killed two fish.
We speculate there to be two reasons behind this occurrence. First, different types of fish have
different tolerances to varying temperature. The suckyfish may have been able to survive in a
greater range of temperatures, even though the temperatures were not in its natural environment.
The temperature range for a suckyfish is 78-80 degrees Fahrenheit (25 degrees Celsius), but they
survive as long as their temperature is constant. Their hardy nature probably contributed to why
they survived better than other groups fish (the temperature range of guppies was already
Due to the simplicity of our ecozones, biogeochemical cycles were not observed in great
detail. However, some cycling was quite obvious. First, in the decomposer system nutrients were
cycled from the scraps, through the decomposers, into the soil, then through the decomposers

and soil repeatedly. Also, logically, oxygen and carbon dioxide was cycled between the plants
and animals. One must take into account however that, when sampling the data and collecting
water, some of the oxygen and carbon dioxide may have escaped, mixing with gases in the
atmosphere. Because the ecozones were not complex, these complex cycles were not given the
full-fledged authenticity present in the natural world. However if posed on a larger scale,
biogeochemical cycles would be shown easily.

The data collected and observations often proved the hypothesis to be accurate. However,
our predictions tended to be obvious and vague most of the time. By the end of the experiment,
the majority of our hypotheses had been proven correct. Previous to the beginning of the
experiment, the research we had done contributed to, and developed, expectations for the
ecozones. The prior research played a large role in what the predicted reactions of the various
ecosystems would be. During the experiment there were many factors that may have led to
inaccurate data collection. Errors caused by human based inaccuracies are inevitable, especially
in a setting that sees unprofessional teenagers running the show. For instance, when measuring
phosphates and nitrates, there may have been fingerprints or other types of residue left on the
vials. Furthermore, when collecting nitrate concentrations, some zinc fell out on a few instances,
which may have also led to some discrepancies. Error may have also been caused by the
inaccuracies in our data gathering
Our specific ecozone may not contribute very helpful data or information in the world
community; however the theory of this experiment is very useful when undertaken by
professionals in different circumstances. If put on a larger scale (and not conducted by high
schoolers with mediocre equipment), this experiment could expose interesting patterns in