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Effect of oil spills on aquatic plantsFeatured science projectScience project video


This science fair project was performed to find out how oil spills will affect aquatic plants. Testing was done using hydrilla plants in water with and without a layer of oil covering the surface.


The plant living in the beaker with a layer of oil on the surface will not be able to perform photosynthesis, and will hence stop producing oxygen.

Scientific Terms

Organic fluid, density, soluble, sheen, photosynthesis


Effects of oil spills

Oil is an organic fluid that has a lower density than water. When oil is spilled on water, it will float on the water surface and form a thin layer. Oil is not soluble in water. This thin layer of oil on the water surface is called sheen and it can kill the aquatic animals and plants that live beneath the water if it is not removed quickly.

The presence of oil on the water surface will blocks sunlight and prevents air from reaching the plants that live in the water. This will prevent the plants from producing food through photosynthesis. Without photosynthesis, the plants will not be able to grow, germinate and produce oxygen. If this condition persists, the plants will eventually die.
Aquatic animals are also not spared by oil spills. They are affected through physical contact, inhalation, ingestion and absorption of oil. The oil also contaminates the algae, plankton, fish eggs and larvae that are food for the smaller fishes. These smaller fishes are eventually eaten by the bigger fishes, birds, other animals and humans. The food chain becomes contaminated and everyone becomes affected.

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