Vernier Software and Technology
Vernier Software & Technology

Primary Productivity


Oxygen is vital to life. In the atmosphere, oxygen comprises over 20% of the available gases. In aquatic ecosystems, however, oxygen is scarce. To be useful to aquatic organisms, oxygen must be in the form of molecular oxygen, O2. The concentration of oxygen in water can be affected by many physical and biological factors. Respiration by plants and animals reduces oxygen concentrations, while the photosynthetic activity of plants increases it. In photosynthesis, carbon is assimilated into the biosphere and oxygen is made available, as follows:

{\text{6 }}{{\text{H}}_{\text{2}}}{\text{O }} + {\text{ 6 C}}{{\text{O}}_{\text{2}}}\left( {\text{g}} \right) + {\text{ energy}} \to {{\text{C}}_{\text{6}}}{{\text{H}}_{{\text{12}}}}{{\text{O}}_{\text{6}}} + {\text{ 6 }}{{\text{O}}_{\text{2}}}\left( {\text{g}} \right)

The rate of assimilation of carbon in water depends on the type and quantity of plants within the water. Primary productivity is the measure of this rate of carbon assimilation. As the above equation indicates, the production of oxygen can be used to monitor the primary productivity of an aquatic ecosystem. A measure of oxygen production over time provides a means of calculating the amount of carbon that has been bound in organic compounds during that period of time. Primary productivity can also be measured by determining the rate of carbon dioxide utilization or the rate of formation of organic compounds.


In the Preliminary Activity, you will gain experience using a Dissolved Oxygen Probe as you measure the DO level of a water sample provided by your teacher. You will also learn how to calculate respiration rate, gross productivity, and net productivity.

After completing the Preliminary Activity, you will first use reference sources to find out more about primary productivity before you choose and investigate a researchable question dealing with primary productivity.

Sensors and Equipment

This investigation features the following Vernier sensors and equipment.

Option 1

Option 2

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 Investigating Environmental Science through Inquiry »

Investigating Environmental Science through Inquiry

See other experiments from the lab book.

1Seasons and Angle of Insolation
2A Local Weather Study
3Investigating Dissolved Oxygen
4Water Quality
5Long Term Water Monitoring
6Water Treatment
7Investigating Salinity
8Soil Temperature
9Soil Salinity
10Soil pH
11Soil Moisture
12Soil and Acid Rain
13Managing Garden Soil Moisture
14Cell Respiration (CO2)
15Biodiversity in Ecosystems
16Biochemical Oxygen Demand
17Water Cycle Column Investigations
18Decomposition Column Investigations
19Ecocolumn Investigations
20Global Warming
21UV Investigations
22Comparing Sunscreens
23Primary Productivity
24Modeling Population Growth
25Insulation Study
26Fossil Fuels
27Energy Conversion
28Wind Power
29Photovoltaic Cells
30Investigation of Passive Solar Heating
31The Effect of Acid Deposition on Aquatic Ecosystems
32Measuring Particulates
33Investigating Indoor Carbon Dioxide Concentrations
34A Pollution Study

Investigation 23 from Investigating Environmental Science through Inquiry Lab Book

<em>Investigating Environmental Science through Inquiry</em> book cover

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