Field of Science

Chemical Competition in Peatland Plants using the Moss Sphagnum

Laboratory Resources for High School Biology Teachers

These laboratory exercises were designed to help students to better understand the concept of chemical competition in ecology using the moss Sphagnum. These exercises aim to show students that not all competition is carried out by animals and not all competition is a physical battle, as most of the traditional examples show. By using the chemical alteration of the environment by Sphagnum, students can also be taught about pH, in a biological framework. As a result, the labs can be used in either an ecology unit or a chemistry unit, within a biology course.

Powerpoint Introduction – Includes 15 slides that introduce the concepts of competition, ion exchange in Sphagnum mosses and succession in peatlands.

Laboratory Exercise 1 – The ability to alter the pH of the water surrounding it is compared between Sphagnum moss and another non-moss aquatic plant.

Laboratory Exercise 2 – The ability of Sphagnum to alter the pH of the water surrounding it is compared with and without additional ions.

Teacher’s Notes – Pre-laboratory preparation, data collection, and Sphagnum collection are covered.

Credits: These resources were developed by Jon Swanson, M.S. (Edwin O. Smith High School, Storrs, CT), Jessica Budke, M.S., and Bernard Goffinet Ph.D. (Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Connecticut, Storrs, CT) funded by a grant from the National Science Foundation (DEB-0919284).

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