Polluted water tested from the Potomac River affects invasive species plant growth

(1) National Cathedral School High School, Washington, DC, (2) University of Minnesota Crookston, Crookston, Minnesota

Cover photo for Polluted water tested from the Potomac River affects invasive species plant growth
Image credit: Alex Korolkoff

Along with global warming, water pollution has become an increasingly concerning issue. Water pollution negatively impacts ecosystems globally, as waterways are becoming unsafe to use due to fast-progressing climate change damaging bodies of water. However, more work is needed to fully understand the impact of rising pollution levels on plant growth, explicitly comparing native and invasive species. It’s critical to determine if native or invasive species have an advantage over the other because ecosystems can dramatically change positively or negatively if environmental factors favor one over the other. We hypothesized that the invasive species, tiger lily, would grow faster with increasingly polluted water levels. To test this theory, we utilized the Potomac River, a polluted river bordering Washington D.C., and one of its invasive species, the tiger lily, to test invasive species' plant growth with water that was polluted at varying levels. We determined that more polluted levels of water increased plant growth of invasive species, as the tiger lily plant watered with river water grew more than those watered with boiled river water and tap water. The study reveals concerns about the tiger lily as an invasive species in the Potomac River basin. Further experimentation with other invasive species in the habitat could determine if there is a correlation between pollution and growth of other invasive plants.

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