Vernier Software and Technology
Vernier Software & Technology

Biochemical Oxygen Demand

Figure from experiment 20 from Agricultural Science with Vernier


Oxygen available to aquatic organisms is found in the form of dissolved oxygen. Oxygen gas is dissolved in a stream through aeration, diffusion from the atmosphere, and photosynthesis of aquatic plants and algae. Plants and animals in the stream consume oxygen in order to produce energy through respiration. In a healthy stream, oxygen is replenished faster than it is used by aquatic organisms. In some streams, aerobic bacteria decompose such a large volume of organic material that oxygen is depleted from the stream faster than it can be replaced. The resulting decrease in dissolved oxygen is known as the Biochemical Oxygen Demand (BOD).

When it rains, organic material found in the soil is transported in the rainwater to streams and rivers. Additional organic material accumulates in the stream when aquatic organisms die. Bacteria and other microorganisms decompose this organic material. In a healthy body of water, this process has only a slight impact on dissolved oxygen levels. It serves to release vital nutrients, such as nitrates and phosphates, which stimulate algae and aquatic plant growth. If the amount of decomposing organic material is too high, dissolved oxygen levels can be severely reduced. In a body of water with large amounts of decaying organic material the dissolved oxygen levels may drop by 90%—this would represent a high BOD. In a mountain stream with low levels of decaying organic material, the dissolved oxygen levels may drop by only 10% or 20%—a low BOD.

Organic materials, such as leaves, fallen trees, fish carcasses, and animal waste, end up in the water naturally and are important in the recycling of nutrients throughout the ecosystem. Organic materials that enter the water as a result of human impact can be considered sources of pollution.


Included in this test are the procedures for High and Low BOD levels. Decide beforehand, based on expected BOD levels, which procedure is appropriate for the water you are testing.

Sensors and Equipment

This experiment features the following Vernier sensors and equipment.

Additional Requirements

You may also need an interface and software for data collection. What do I need for data collection?

Standards Correlations

See all standards correlations for Agricultural Science with Vernier »

Agricultural Science with Vernier

See other experiments from the lab book.

1Introduction to Data Collection
2Acids and Bases
3Diffusion through Membranes
4Conducting Solutions
6Respiration of Sugars by Yeast
7Reflection and Absorption of Light
8Soil pH
9Soil Salinity
10Soil Temperature
11Soil Moisture
12APhotosynthesis and Respiration (CO2)
12BPhotosynthesis and Respiration (O2)
12CPhotosynthesis and Respiration (CO2 and O2)
14ACell Respiration (CO2)
14BCell Respiration (O2)
14CCell Respiration (CO2 and O2)
15The Greenhouse Effect
16Energy in Food
17AEnzyme Action: Testing Catalase Activity
17BEnzyme Action: Testing Catalase Activity
18ALactase Action
18BLactase Action
19Oxygen Gas and Human Respiration
20Biochemical Oxygen Demand
21Animal Temperature
22Lemon "Juice"
23Ohm's Law
24Energy Content of Fuels
25Photovoltaic Cells
26Wind Power
27Watershed Testing
28Interdependence of Plants and Animals
29Biodiversity and Ecosystems

Experiment 20 from Agricultural Science with Vernier Lab Book

<em>Agricultural Science with Vernier</em> book cover

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