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To determine the effect of population size on the rate of growth in cress seeds

Background theory

A species population size may stay fairly stable over time or rise and fall
quite suddenly with a regular pattern. The size of a population depends
upon the balance between the death rate and birth rate.
Carrying capacity is the maximum population size that can be maintained
over a period of time in a particular habitat.
The graph shows population growth over time.
At the Lag phase there may only be a few individuals, still acclimatising to
their habitat. The birth rate is low and the growth
is slow.
At the log phase the resources are plentiful and
conditions are good. The rate of reproduction is
fast and exceeds mortality. The population size
increases rapidly.
At the stationary phase the population size has
levelled out at the carrying capacity. The habitat
cannot support a larger population. In this stage
the birth and death rates are equal. Therefore
the population size stays stable or fluctuates
very slightly up and down in response to small
variations in environmental conditions each year.
The habitat cannot support a larger population because of factors that
limit the growth in population size. These are limiting factors.
They may include the availability of:
o Food
o Water
o Light
o Oxygen
For the cress that I am investigating, the limiting factors could be the
amount of water available and the amount of light as each seed will be
competing. As the population of the cress increases, the % germination
will decrease as the accessibility to the resources will become more

1. Take 10 100ml beakers and label them separately using Sharpie marker.
Labels 20,40,60,80,100,120,140,160,180,200.
2. Place filter paper in the base of the beaker. Make sure that the filter paper
fits the circumference of the beaker and there is limited space between
the paper and the glass edge. This will prevent many seeds from getting
trapped below the paper and having a disadvantage.
3. Count out the correct number of seeds to the label on the side of the
beaker. Place the seeds on the filter paper.
4. Fill up the beaker with 3ml of water. Be sure not to displace any seeds
from the paper.
5. Place a square of cling film over the top of the beaker, including excess
that can wrap around the sides of the beaker.

6. Secure the cling film tightly with a rubber band to prevent the loss of
7. Place the beakers in a cool, light area; preferably next to a window.
8. After a week, count the number of seeds that have germinated in each
9. Also, measure the height of the stems of the germinated seeds. Measure
in mm.

Results Table
size number
of seeds


Height of stem



The data we have collected after leaving the cress seeds for a week show no
apparent correlation. The relationship between the number of cress seeds and %
germination and height of stem does not demonstrate a strong trend. To begin
with, an increase in the number of seeds does increase the height of the stem up
until 140 seeds where the height drops to the lowest height. This shows that the
dependent variable does not cause the independent variable to increase or
decrease. The height of the stem decreases from 140 seeds onwards. If we were
to discard the outliers (140 seeds) the trend shows that the higher the number of
seeds, the taller the stem is. This could be because the larger population gives
the community a higher chance of growing to a higher height. Also, when there is
competition for light between a plant and its neighbours, height growth will help
individual plants avoid and of the shading effects of its neighbours on itself and
enable it to acquire more of the light source.
This small correlation does not occur when regarding the % of germination. The
trend is non-existent as it is completely random with no curvature of the graph.
The graph also shows peaks and troughs with 3% between them for the %
germination. The seeds did not germinate well at all within a week as the highest
% germination we recorded was 5.6 and that was within the 180 seeded
populations. This could have been due to the conditions we provided. Some
could have been prevented from germinating due to the lack of light. The beaker
could have had an object obstructing the light from flooding the seeds exposure.

This could have been the case for the beaker with 200 seeds as no seed
germinated. This also could have been because of the lack of nutrients and water
for the population to grow. However, when we counted the number of seeds, we
noticed that the environment of where the cress seeds where growing was
extremely wet. So maybe, there was too much water. We could have drowned
the seeds and provided them with too much water. We also could have not put in
enough filter paper, so the water might not have been taken up well enough.
References: OCR biology A2 text book.