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Anna Swenson

AP Environmental Science
Mrs. Norris
1 November 2014
Erosion Lab
Soil erosion is a naturally occurring process on all land. The agents of soil erosion are
primarily water and wind. Soil erosion may be a slow process that continues relatively unnoticed,
or it may occur at an alarming rate causing serious loss of topsoil. The loss of topsoil from
farmland may be reflected in reduced crop production potential, lower surface water quality and
damaged drainage networks. When farmers till land and clear out the original plants and trees, its
rips up the top soil and then when it rains or is windy all that top soil erodes away. This
experiment is focused on how grass effects the movement of water in an ecosystem. The
hypothesis is, if we add 200 mL of water to each bottle, then the bottle containing the planted
grass would have the least amount of erosion after one minute, with a runoff of soil at 1 in.
To perform this experiment one will need, NPP lab bottle containing planted grass, 2 liter
bottles, cut in half, 6 200 mL beakers, potting soil, water, leaf litter and pine straw litter. First,
cut 2 new bottles into boat form and fill both with a base of potting soil. Then, fill one bottle with
leaf litter and one with pine straw. Place all three bottles on a higher surface at an angle pointing
the spout downwards and place three beakers under the spout of each bottle to catch the water
run-off. Fill three beakers with 200 mL of water and set timer for 2 minutes. Lastly, pour 200 mL
of water at the same time and let water run-off until the timer buzzes. Compare the amount of
water, amount of soil (erosion), and coloration of water between the three. The controlled
variables of this experiment are the amount of water, soil, time of drainage, angle of drainage
and size of bottle. The independent variable is the type of biomass on top/planted and the amount
of water. The dependent variable is the amount of water run-off, amount of soil run-off (erosion)
and the coloration of the water run-off.

Bottle Water Run-off Time Observations
Grass and Soil 100 mL 2 min Bright yellow with
bits of soil
Pine Straw and Soil 100 mL 2 min Murky with hardly
any soil
Leaf Litter and Soil 50 mL 2 min Murky color with soil

When testing for erosion (the output of soil and the coloration of water), we found that
instead of the grass and soil having the least amount of erosion it was the pine straw. The pine
straw did out-put more water, but the water was just slightly murky. There was not soil in the
beaker other than at most five pieces of soil. Our group assumed the grass and soil would have
the least amount of erosion because there was planted grass that had roots holding the soil in
place. The pine straw, however, provided a protection by covering the soil leading to less
erosion. The pine straw was more efficient than the leaf litter because the leaf litter had many
more holes in the covering and was not as dense.
In North Caroline pine trees are very common. I can personally attest that pine trees
thrive in my backyard, based on this experiment this species of tree most likely thrives because
of the pine straw holding the top soil together feeding the trees efficiently. I can also personally
compare that my grass in my yard does not survive as well as the pine trees because of the lack
of pine straw holding the top soil together. Because our house is positioned on a hill, when it
rains the water washes the top soil away from the grass causing it to die at the higher points of
the yard. Our hypothesis was incorrect in stating that the grass and soil would have the least
amount of erosion, in actuality, it was the pine straw. This test could be done repeatedly with the
same bottles right after one another to determine which has the least amount of erosion of time
(reproducing the acts of nature during the rain). This lab did acurately demonstrate effects of
water and erosion.