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Analyzing Dissolved Oxygen and Carbon Dioxide Levels at the Lighthouse Resource
Center in Waretown, New Jersey
Sharon Xu
Abstract
Dissolved oxygen and carbon dioxide are important gases in the water
that are necessary to the survival of aquatic organisms. Dissolved oxygen levels
and carbon dioxide levels at the Lighthouse Resource Center were analyzed for
differences among the lagoon, pond, and bay and a correlation between the two
parameters. Due to varying amounts of organic matter decomposition in the
water, there were significant differences in dissolved oxygen levels among the
three sites. Carbon dioxide levels also differed among the three waterbodies for
that reason. There were significant differences in dissolved oxygen levels and
carbon dioxide levels among the different times because DO and CO2 levels
vary depending on whether photosynthesis or respiration is taking place. It was
also determined that DO and CO2 were inversely related with high dissolved
oxygen levels usually indicating lower carbon dioxide levels.

Introduction
Dissolved gases are present in the water, mostly in the form of nitrogen, N2; oxygen, O2;
and carbon dioxide, CO2 (Colt, 2012). These gases are also in the atmosphere and are exchanged
between the atmosphere and the water at the water’s surface (Chesapeake Bay Program, n.d.).
Dissolved oxygen and carbon dioxide are important gases in the water. Dissolved oxygen enters
water through the air or as a product of photosynthesis from phytoplankton or other aquatic
plants (Shriwastav, Sudarsan, Bose & Tare, 2017). Dissolved oxygen is necessary for the
survival of fish and other aquatic organisms and for the decomposition of organic matter
(Francis-Floyd, 2014). Carbon dioxide plays a major role in the processes of photosynthesis and
respiration for plants (Kotoski, n.d.). Most gases in the air can readily dissolve in water. The
solubility concentrations of dissolved oxygen and carbon dioxide vary depending on several
factors. The solubility of dissolved oxygen varies depending on temperature, salinity, and
atmospheric pressure (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, 2008). At the same
time, dissolved oxygen concentrations are also constantly being affected by photosynthesis,
respiration, and decomposition in the water (Perlman, 2017). Carbon dioxide is highly soluble in
water. CO2 dissolves in water 200 times more easily than oxygen (Kotoski, n.d.). The
concentration of carbon dioxide in the water is affected by the biological activity in the water
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(Hargreaves & Brunson, 2006). Carbon dioxide levels of 30 ppm are considered harmful to most
organisms (Gooding, Harley & Tang, 2009). At that level, fish and other organisms will have
difficulty reducing their internal carbon dioxide concentrations which results in it accumulating
in their blood (Gooding et. al., 2009). For dissolved oxygen, levels that fall below 5 ppm are also
insufficient to sustain the lives of most aquatic organisms (Chesapeake Bay Program, n.d.). This
study was completed to analyze the correlation between dissolved oxygen levels and carbon
dioxide levels in the pond, lagoon, and bay at the Lighthouse Resource Center. In addition, DO
levels and CO2 levels were analyzed for differences among the three sites.

Methods
Study Area:
The data utilized in this study was obtained during an overnight trip to the Lighthouse
Center for Natural Resource Education in Waretown, New Jersey for the Research Methods &
Applications class. Three sites were sampled at the Lighthouse Resource Center: Lagoon, Pond,
and Bay (Figure 1). Pictures of the study sites can be seen in figures 7 - 9. Sample collection
took place on Tuesday, May 23, 2017 and went into the next day. There were 11 sampling times
in all. Starting from 3:00 pm on May 23rd, each site was sampled every two hours with the last
sampling time being 9:00 am on May 24th. Weather conditions at the Lighthouse Resource
Center comprised of temperatures that were in the 16°C range that decreased to 14°C at night.
Wind speed was low; the maximum wind speed was recorded as 4.3 mph from the northeast.
There was also light rain during the stay, starting at around 11:00 pm on May 23rd.
Procedure:
Various water quality parameters were analyzed at each site. Carbon dioxide was
analyzed using a carbon dioxide test kit by LaMotte. Two drops of phenolphthalein indicator
were added to a 20 mL water sample at each site. The sample was then titrated using Carbon
Dioxide Reagent B (Figure 11) until the solution was a faint pink color, at which point the
carbon dioxide was recorded in parts per million (ppm). Dissolved oxygen was analyzed using
the LaMotte Dissolved Oxygen Test Kit (Figure 10). Water samples were fixed and then titrated
according to the standard Winkler Titration method for finding dissolved oxygen. Values were
reported in parts per million (ppm).
Statistical Analysis:
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A regression test was used to determine if there was a relationship between dissolved
oxygen in the water and carbon dioxide levels at the Lighthouse Resource Center. A 95%
confidence level was used for the regression test. An ANOVA single factor test was used to
determine if there was a difference in dissolved oxygen levels among the three sites: lagoon,
pond, and bay. A second ANOVA single factor test was used to determine if there was a
difference in carbon dioxide levels among the three sites. Additional ANOVA single factor tests
were used to determine if there was a difference in dissolved oxygen levels of the lagoon, pond,
and bay during different times or if there was a difference in carbon dioxide levels of the three
sites during different times. An alpha of 0.05 or less was used to determine significance.

Results
Overall, dissolved oxygen values were within the range of 1 ppm and 8.4 ppm for the
lagoon, pond, and bay. Carbon dioxide levels for the three water bodies at the Lighthouse
Resource Center were between 6 ppm and 36 ppm. For the lagoon specifically, DO values were
between 1 ppm and 6.8 ppm while CO2 values were between 7 ppm and 18 ppm. For the pond,
DO values were between 1 ppm and 5.8 ppm while CO2 values were between 9 ppm and 36 ppm.
For the bay, DO values were between 1.7 ppm and 8.4 ppm while CO2 values were between 5.5
ppm and 29 ppm. On average, the bay had the highest dissolved oxygen values and the pond had
the lowest values (Figure 2). The pond also had the highest CO2 values on average while the
lagoon had the lowest CO2 values (Figure 3). The ANOVA found that there was a significant
difference in dissolved oxygen levels among the lagoon, pond, and bay, indicated by a p-value of
0.0096. There was also significant difference in carbon dioxide levels among the three sites as
shown by P < 0.0001. The differences in dissolved oxygen levels of the lagoon at different times
were significant (ANOVA, P < 0.0001) as were the DO values from the pond (ANOVA, P <
0.0001) and the bay (ANOVA, P < 0.0001). See Figure 4. Furthermore, the differences in carbon
dioxide levels of the lagoon at different times were significant (ANOVA, P < 0.0001) as were the
CO2 values from the pond (ANOVA, P < 0.0001) and the bay (ANOVA, P < 0.0001). See Figure
5. A regression of dissolved oxygen values and carbon dioxide values overall showed a
significant relationship between the two water quality parameters (n =199, P < 0.0001, r2 =
0.371). See Figure 6.
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Discussion
Average dissolved oxygen levels of the three waterbodies sampled at the Lighthouse
Resource Center from least to greatest were pond, lagoon, and bay (Figure 2). The concentration
of dissolved oxygen in water is affected by oxygen solubility which varies depending on
temperature, pressure, and salinity (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, 2008).
Water temperatures did not fluctuate greatly among the lagoon, pond, and bay, and atmospheric
pressure would have remained the same among the three sites. However, the three sites did have
different salinities. The pond had an average salinity of 0 ppt since it is freshwater. The lagoon
had an average salinity of 17 ppt while the bay had an average salinity of 22 ppt. As salt
increases, dissolved oxygen decreases due to the salt ions competing for the same bond places as
the oxygen (Perlman, 2017). However, the data collected from the Lighthouse Resource Center
did not support this. Dissolved oxygen was lowest at the pond, the freshwater, and increased to
4.4 ppm at the lagoon and 5.3 ppm at the bay (Figure 2). Overall, the dissolved oxygen values at
the Lighthouse Resource Center did not follow the trend of higher salinity, less dissolved oxygen
because salinity does not have a substantial impact on the amount of dissolved oxygen in water.
Instead, dissolved oxygen levels were affected by other factors such as bacteria in the water
(Francis-Floyd, 2014). Bacteria consumes oxygen when decomposing organic matter in the
water (Perlman, 2017). As a result, the presence of organic material and the decomposition that
follows can lead to decreased dissolved oxygen levels. The high amount of organic matter
present in the pond compared to the lagoon and the bay may have contributed to the pond’s low
dissolved oxygen levels of 3.9 ppm.
There was a significant difference among the dissolved oxygen levels of the water at
different times. The three ANOVA tests for the dissolved oxygen levels during different times at
the lagoon, pond, and bay all resulted in p-values that were less than 0.0001 (Figure 4). This is
due to the diurnal dissolved oxygen cycle (Francis-Floyd, 2014). During the day, the sun’s
energy allows plants and phytoplankton to photosynthesize. The process of photosynthesis yields
the products of glucose, C6H12O6, and oxygen, O2. Plants and phytoplankton release some of the
oxygen into the water, increasing the overall dissolved oxygen level (National Oceanic and
Atmospheric Administration, 2008). However, during nighttime, there is no light for
photosynthesis. Instead of releasing oxygen into the water, plants and phytoplankton remove
dissolved oxygen from the water for respiration which leads to decreased dissolved oxygen
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levels (Perlman, 2017). The lack of photosynthesis makes dissolved oxygen concentrations the
lowest at night and the highest during the late afternoon because photosynthesis has been
occurring all day (Guasch et. al., 1998). This general trend of dissolved oxygen levels is
discernible on the data collected from the Lighthouse Resource Center with DO values
decreasing at night starting from 19:00 then increasing again in the morning at 7:00 (Figure 4).
However, there were deviations from the general trend with DO values at the lagoon decreasing
after 19:00 only to increase after 21:00 (Figure 4). The data is limited by the small sample size of
only three samples per site during a timeslot and possible human error in obtaining the dissolved
oxygen values as well. They prevented an accurate determination from being made as to the
reason behind those sudden DO changes. The changes may be due to a wide variety of factors
such as rainfall, organic material, nutrients, salinity, velocity of the water, etc (National Oceanic
and Atmospheric Administration, 2008). Studies analyzing diurnal dissolved oxygen cycle at the
Lighthouse Resource Center repeatedly on more than one occasion can help validate the results
obtained for this study.
Average carbon dioxide levels of the three waterbodies sampled at the Lighthouse
Resource Center from least to greatest were lagoon, pond, and bay (Figure 3). All aquatic
organisms release carbon dioxide into the water (Hargreaves & Brunson, 2006) Sources of
carbon dioxide in water include respiration by fish and other microscopic plants and animals
(Kotoski, n.d.). However, most carbon dioxide is produced by bacteria in the water that
decompose organic matter (Hargreaves & Brunson, 2006). The differences in carbon dioxide
levels among the lagoon, pond, and bay may be attributed to the varying amounts of organic
matter decomposition in the water.
There was also a significant difference in the carbon dioxide levels among the different
times. The three ANOVA tests for the carbon dioxide levels during different times at the lagoon,
pond, and bay all resulted in p-values that were less than 0.0001 (Figure 5). The data did not
show a clear diurnal trend like dissolved oxygen did. Night sampling times did not result in
consistently high or low carbon dioxide values. For example, the average CO2 level of the pond
was 22 ppm at 21:00, decreased to 12 ppm at 23:00 and then increased to 28 ppm at 1:00 (Figure
5). Previous studies on carbon dioxide levels in ponds have shown that they generally are at their
highest shortly before dawn. Algae fix and absorb the carbon dioxide dioxide that is free in the
water during the day, resulting in low carbon dioxide concentrations in the late afternoon
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(Kotoski, n.d.). At night, carbon dioxide is produced through the respiration of pond organisms
which accumulates before dawn, resulting in high carbon dioxide levels at that time (Guasch et
al., 2009). However, the fluctuating carbon dioxide levels of the water at the Lighthouse
Resource Center may be due to rainfall as rain can wash out all the organisms that produce
carbon dioxide (Hargreaves & Brunson, 2006). Rainfall that started between 21:00 and 23:00
may have impacted the organisms that produced the carbon dioxide in the pond and decreased
the CO2 levels.
A regression of dissolved oxygen levels and carbon levels showed a significant
relationship (n = 99; P < 0.0001; r2 = 0.371; Figure 6). The concentrations of dissolved oxygen
and carbon dioxide in the water are usually opposites since dissolved oxygen is used up as
carbon dioxide is produced. As dissolved oxygen levels increase, carbon dioxide levels decrease.
Conversely, carbon dioxide concentrations are at its highest when dissolved oxygen
concentrations are low. Overall, changes in dissolved oxygen levels and carbon dioxide levels of
a body of water can be attributed to its metabolism or how much energy is created through
primary production and how much is used through respiration (Guasch et al., 1998). Dissolved
oxygen levels are high and carbon dioxide levels are low during the day because of
photosynthesis while dissolved oxygen levels are low and carbon dioxide levels are high at night
because of respiration (Ultsch, 1971)
A general analysis of the dissolved oxygen overall shows that the levels are very low in
all three sites at the Lighthouse Resource Center. DO levels of 3.9 ppm, 4.4 ppm, and 5.3 ppm
are insufficient to support the growth and activity of most aquatic organisms (Table 1). At 5 ppm
of dissolved oxygen, organisms start experiencing stress and can begin to die since they require a
certain amount of dissolved oxygen to survive (Chesapeake Bay Program, n.d.).

Conclusion
There were significant differences in dissolved oxygen levels and carbon dioxide levels
among the pond, lagoon, and bay. Among different sampling times, there were also significant
differences in dissolved oxygen levels and in carbon dioxide levels. In addition, there was a
significant correlation between dissolved oxygen levels and carbon dioxide levels of the water at
the Lighthouse Resource Center. Dissolved oxygen and carbon dioxide had an inverse
relationship; as dissolved oxygen increased, carbon dioxide decreased. Overall, dissolved oxygen
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levels of the water at the Lighthouse Resource Center were found to be very low and need to be
continuously monitored for any further decreases.

References
Chesapeake Bay Program. (n.d.). Dissolved Oxygen. Retrieved June 07, 2017, from
http://www.chesapeakebay.net/discover/bayecosystem/dissolvedoxygen
Colt, J. (2012). Dissolved Gas Concentration in Water (2nd ed.). Elsevier.
Francis-Floyd, R. (2014, December 10). Dissolved Oxygen for Fish Production. Retrieved June
06, 2017, from http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/fa002
Gooding, R. A., Harley, C. D., & Tang, E. (2009). Elevated water temperature and carbon
dioxide concentration increase the growth of a keystone echinoderm. PNAS,106(23),
9316-9321. doi:10.1073/pnas.0811143106
Guasch, H., Armengol, J., Martı,́ E., & Sabater, S. (1998). Diurnal variation in dissolved oxygen
and carbon dioxide in two low-order streams. Water Research,32(4), 1067-1074.
doi:10.1016/s0043-1354(97)00330-8
Hargreaves, J., & Brunson, M. (2006, April). Carbon Dioxide in Fish Ponds. Retrieved June 07,
2017, from https://appliedecology.cals.ncsu.edu/wp-content/uploads/SRAC-0468.pdf
Kotoski, J. E. (n.d.). Carbon Dioxide Amounts in Water. Retrieved June 07, 2017, from
http://osse.ssec.wisc.edu/curriculum/earth/Minifact6_Carbon_Dioxide.pdf
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. (2008, March 25). Dissolved Oxygen.
Retrieved June 06, 2017, from
http://oceanservice.noaa.gov/education/kits/estuaries/media/supp_estuar10d
_disolvedox.html
Perlman, H. (2017, January 20). Water properties: Dissolved oxygen. Retrieved June 06, 2017,
from https://water.usgs.gov/edu/dissolvedoxygen.html
Shriwastav, A., Sudarsan, G., Bose, P., & Tare, V. (2017). A modified Winkler’s method for
determination of dissolved oxygen concentration in water: Dependence of method
accuracy on sample volume. Measurement,106, 190-195.
doi:10.1016/j.measurement.2017.05.004
Ultsch, G. R. (1971). The Relationship of Dissolved Carbon Dioxide and Oxygen to
Microhabitat Selection in Pseudobranchus striatus. Copeia,1971(2), 247-252.
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doi:10.2307/1442824

Table 1: Comparison of average dissolved oxygen and carbon dioxide levels of three sites at the
Lighthouse Resource Center. There was a significant difference in DO levels and CO2 levels
among the lagoon, pond, and bay. At each site, there were also a significant difference in DO and
CO2 levels among the different times sampled.

Lagoon Pond Bay

DO CO2 DO CO2 DO CO2


(ppm) (ppm) (ppm) (ppm) (ppm) (ppm)

13:00 2.0 14 1.9 29 7.2 8

15:00 6.7 11 3.3 26 8.0 8

17:00 6.7 11 3.6 24 8.0 10

19:00 5.2 12 3.6 26 7.9 6

21:00 2.1 15 5.3 22 4.9 7


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23:00 5.0 9 5.3 12 4.0 10

1:00 5.0 13 4.0 28 3.2 23

3:00 5.3 17 4.0 23 4.4 13

5:00 2.8 13 4.3 17 2.3 27

7:00 5.2 14 2.8 25 1.8 23

9:00 2.3 15 5.0 21 6.3 12

Figure 1: Map of the Lighthouse Resource Center in Waretown, New Jersey. Sample collection
took place at the three sites: Pond, Lagoon, and Bay starting from 13:00 on May 23, 2017 and
into 9:00 the next day on May 24, 2017.
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Figure 2: Dissolved oxygen values (ppm) for the lagoon, pond, and bay at the
Lighthouse Resource Center on May 23 - 24, 2017 (n = 99). ANOVA found a
significant difference among the three sites (P = 0.0096). Average dissolved
oxygen levels are shown. Bars indicate ± 5% values of the mean.

Figure 3: Carbon dioxide values (ppm) for the lagoon, pond, and bay at the
Lighthouse Resource Center on May 23 - 24, 2017 (n = 99). ANOVA found a
significant difference among the three sites (P < 0.0001). Average dissolved
oxygen levels are shown. Bars indicate ± 5% values of the mean.
Figure 4: Dissolved oxygen values (ppm) for the lagoon, pond and bay across a
20-hour time span. ANOVA found a significant difference among sampling
times for the lagoon (n = 33, P < 0.0001). There was also a significant
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difference among sampling times for the pond (ANOVA, n = 33, P < 0.0001).
Differences among sampling times for the bay were also different (ANOVA, n
= 33, P < 0.0001). Bars indicate ± 5% values of the mean.

Figure 5: Carbon dioxide values (ppm) for the lagoon, pond and bay across a 20-
hour time span at the Lighthouse Resource Center on May 23 - 24, 2017.
ANOVA found a significant difference among sampling times for the lagoon (n =
33, P < 0.0001). There was also a significant difference among sampling times for
the pond (ANOVA, n = 33, P < 0.0001). Differences among sampling times for
the bay were also significant (ANOVA, n = 33, P < 0.0001). Bars indicate ± 5%
values of the mean.
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Figure 6: Regression of dissolved oxygen values (ppm) and carbon dioxide


values (ppm) for three sites at the Lighthouse Resource Center on May 23 - 24,
2017 (n = 99). There was a significant correlation between dissolved oxygen and
carbon dioxide (P < 0.0001, r2 = 0.371).

Figure 9: A view of the bay at the


Lighthouse Resource Center where
sampling took place on May 23 - 24, 2017.

Figure 7: A view of the lagoon at the


Lighthouse Resource Center where
sampling took place on May 23 - 24, 2017.
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Figure 11: A carbon dioxide test kit by La


Motte used to measure carbon dioxide levels
in the water in parts per million (ppm).

Figure 8: A view of the pond at the


Lighthouse Resource Center where sampling
took place on May 23 - 24, 2017.

Figure 10: A dissolved oxygen test kit by


La Motte uses Winkler Titration to measure
dissolved oxygen levels in parts per million
(ppm).