Lemna Minor Population

Growth Rate Under Standard
and Excess Phosphorus
Conditions
BIOL 220W LAB REPORT
Name: Moyan Jia
ID: mkj5122
TA: Wilfried Guiblet
Partners: Taylor Baum
Chris Cayo
Xin Tang
Section: 012
Date: 04/20/2016

Lemna Minor Population Growth Rate Under Standard and Excess
Phosphorus Conditions
1.0 Introduction
It is commonly known that plants have an intimate relationship with nutrients. According
to their functions and required quantities, nutrients are classified into macronutrients
(carbon, oxygen, hydrogen, nitrogen, phosphorous, sulfur, potassium, calcium, and
magnesium) and micronutrients (chlorine, iron, manganese, boron, zinc, copper, nickle,
and molybdenum). Macronutrients are the major components of the organic compounds
of a plant’s structure. [1] For instance, phosphorous (H2PO4-, HPO42-) assists in the
decomposition of ATP, phospholipids, and nucleic acid. The symptoms of phosphorous
deficiency include slow development, fairly thin stems, purple veins, and small flowers
and fruits. Excessive phosphorus, on the other hand, causes plants transpiration failure
and even death. [2] The concentration of nutrients can be used in bioremediation to deal
with pollution. Water contamination caused by high concentration of industrial
phosphorus and nitrogen leads to low oxygen density in bottom water and induces severe
ecological problem. One efficient resolution is phytoremediation, which is the process
using aquatic plants to purify water. [3] For the practicability of phytoremediation, the
relationship between nutrients and plants population is tested in this experiment.
In order to test the phosphorus concentration on a plant population, lemna minor is used
as the model organism. Lemna minor (aka. duckweed) is an aquatic plant which is
free-floating on the water surface. The length of an individual lemna minor is 5mm,
containing 2-8 thalli and a single root. It has high growing speed and a relative short life
cycle. Lemna is a flowering plant that reproduces sexually and rapidly, so it is very
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common in aquatic areas. Due to the biological characteristics, lemna is used widely in
bioremediation. [3] Salvinia minima is another species of aquatic plant. It is bigger than
lemna, and it has a rapid growth rate and a short life cycle as well. [4]
In this experiment, a population of lemna is monitored under standard and excessive
concentrations of phosphorus. The purpose of this experiment is to analyze the lemna
minor population growth rate in standard pond water and in water treated with excessive
phosphorus water. The effects of phosphorus concentration will be addressed, and the
carrying capacity of lemna will be estimated. Then, the competition between lemna and
slavinia in same experimental area is processed to determine which plant has high fitness
and competitiveness.
The hypothesis of this experiment is that lemna population grows faster in higher
phosphorus concentration water than in standard pond water, because appropriate
phosphorus quantity promotes lemna growth. However, the hypothesis can be made
alternatively. If the phosphorus concentration is higher than necessary, it may cause
negative effects on lemna growth. Overall, lemna is assumed to have higher
competitiveness than salvia because of its smaller size and high population density.
This experiment is manipulated in control and experimental groups distinguished by
different phosphorus concentrations. The growth of lemna is observed and recorded
under two water conditions.
2.0 Materials and Methods
This experiment is separated into 2 sub-experiments, named experiment 1 and 2.
Experiment 1 is the control group. Two containers were both labeled Exp I and fully filled
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with standard pond water. One container contained 24 lemna individuals, and the other
contains 12 lemna individuals. Experiment 2 was set in 3 containers labeled A, B, and C
filled with excessive 2ml phosphorus solution and 24 lemna individuals in each. [5]
The water was change and/or added every 2 days, and the nutrition was added once a
week. The number of thalli in each container was counted and recorded weekly. Then the
data was collected and analyzed. [6]
3.0 Results
After a few observations, data is collected and demonstrated in table 1.
Table 1: Lemna # Thalli Data 1-3
Experiment # Identification Starting # Species
Data 2
Data 3
Data 4
1
No.12
66
lemna
203
224
113
1
No.24
162
lemna
213
217
0
2
A
57
lemna
207
210
107
2
B
55
lemna
197
223
75
2
C
77
lemna
193
191
138
Table 1: Lemna # Thalli Data 1-3 shows that from week 1 (starting #) to week 2 (data 2)
the number of thalli increase significantly; the following week also shows increase thali
but the rate of increasing is decreased.
However, after 3 weeks all the plants are dead. The lemna leaves were bleached, and the
containers were covered with algae. The reasons are not addressed yet. In order to
proceed the experiment, the data from previous experimenters are used and analyzed.
Table 2: Lemna # Thalli Data from Previous Experimenters (Experiment 1)
Starting # of Individual
Day
# Thalli of 3 groups Average # Thalli
24
0
32
30.33
26
33
24

14

24

21

136
115
252
744
489
3

167.67

554.33

430
24
28
824
758.00
800
650
Table 2: Lemna # Thalli Data from Previous Experimenters (Experiment 1) shows
the steady increase in lemna population over time.
The trend of population (N) vs. time (day) is plotted in figure 1, and the ln(N) vs. time
(day) is graphed in figure 2.

N vs T
1200
1000

Population

800
600

Control

400

Experimental

200
0
0

5

10

15
Day

20

25

30

Figure 1: The relationship between Lemna population and time. The population has
positive relationship with time. Before day 14, the population growth rate is
relatively low; between day 14 and day 21 the population growth is high; and after
day 21 the rate decreases again because of carrying capacity.

ln(N) vs t
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y = 0.1206x + 3.4719
R² = 0.9764

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ln (N)

6

y = 0.1206x + 3.4719
R² = 0.9764

5
4

Control

3

Experimental

2
1
0
0

5

10

15
Day

20

4

25

30

Figure 2: Exponential population growth rate of Lemna. The exponential growth
rate has positive relationship with time. Before day 21, the growth rate is linear, and
after day 21 the rate approaches the asymptote.

λ vs N
Average Growth Rate

7
6
y = -0.0073x + 5.2316
R² = 0.9085

5
4
3

Control

2

Experimental
y = -0.0097x + 5.7254
R² = 0.6016

1
0

0

100

200

300
Day

400

500

600

Figure 4: Geometric growth rate of Lemna population over population. As the
population increases, the relative geometric growth rate decreases.
Then, the data of experimental group (experiment 2) is collected in table 3.
Table 3: Lemna # Thalli Data with Excessive P from Previous Experimenters (Experiment
2)
Starting
#
of Day
# Thalli of 3 groups Average # Thalli
individual
24
0
27
32.00
29
40
24
14
190
203.67
209
212
24
21
435
412.33
395
407
24
28
1192
1037.00
868
1051
Table 3: Lemna # Thalli Data with Excessive P from Previous Experimenters
(Experiment 2). The amount of thalli rises exponential rapidly with excessive
phosphorus.
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For the purpose of comparison and contrast, the data of experimental and control group
are plotted in figure 4.

Exp & Control Growth Rate Compare
1200

Population

1000
800
600

Control

400

Experimental

200
0
0

5

10

15
Day

20

25

30

Figure 4: The Lemna population growth rate of experimental and control group.
Before day 14, both group keep increasing, and the experimental group shows
slightly higher rate. Between day 16 and 24, excessive phosphorus causes negative
effects compared with standard phosphorus. After day 24, the higher concentration
of phosphorus demonstrates dominantly higher growth rate.
4.0 Discussion
According to the tables and figures above, the population of Lemna increases as time
increases under both standard and excessive concentrations of phosphorus. In the control
group, the Lemna population growth rate is logistic, which increases significantly
between day 14 and 21 and reaches carrying capacity around day 28. [7] The ln (N) vs.
time function is almost linear with positive slope. Shown in figure 4, excessive
concentration of phosphorus has slightly suppression effect on Lemna population growth
rate compared with control group between day 16 and 24. With the continuing population
growth, Lemna requires excessive amount of phosphorus, so Lemna grows faster in the
experimental group.
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Thus, the initial hypothesis is correct. Excessive phosphorus does not suppress the growth
of Lemna; however, it promotes the plant growth. All the data shows consistent evidence
with the original hypothesis.
The experimental data is dismissed because the plants are not well treated or manipulated
and the collected data is not reliable. The possible error sources are inappropriate
temperature in the green house, extreme pH values in pond solution, nutrients
contamination, and algae malignant competition etc. [8] The experiment can be improved
by repeating steps, precisely monitoring environmental factors, and multiple examined
lab equipment. In order to get more accurate results, the data from previous similar
experiment is analyzed instead, and the conclusion is consistent with the hypothesis.
In conclusion, the phosphorus concentration does increase the population growth rate of
Lemna. Theoretically, the average growth pattern is logistic, under the limitation of
carrying capacity. In the standard concentration of phosphorus solutions, the Leman
increase not as much with the excessive phosphorus provided. Hence, Lemna is sensitive
to phosphorus and can be adapted as the bioremediation plant. [9]
On the other hand, the results also raise other problems. What is the threshold of
phosphorus concentration that has positive effect on Lemna growth? Whether will the
Lemna obtain resistance of high concentration phosphorus concentration? Those
questions can be studied in further experiments.
This experiment is significant on bioremediation which is widely adapted in ecosystem
regulation. The relationship between Lemna and phosphorus concentration is addressed
and provides the support to further study and industrial application.
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3.

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4.

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5.

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BIOL 220W: Populations and Communities Laboratory Manual-Spring 2016. Penn State
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7.

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8.

Van Donk, E., De Senerpont Domis, L. N., Mau, B., Smolders, A. J. P., & Mulderij, G.
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9.

Alvarado, S., Guédez, M., Lué-Merú, M. P., Nelson, G., Alvaro, A., Jesús, A. C., &
Gyula, Z. (2008). Arsenic removal from waters by bioremediation with the aquatic plants
water hyacinth ( eichhornia crassipes) and lesser duckweed ( lemna minor). Bioresource
Technology, 99(17), 8436-8440. doi:10.1016/j.biortech.2008.02.051
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