Impact of Zebra Mussels on Primary Productivity
Students will perform a laboratory to investigate the effect of zebra mussels on primary productivity.   This study can be used in conjunction with Advanced Placement Biology Lab #12, Dissolved Oxygen and Aquatic Primary Productivity.
Students will learn how to measure primary productivity in an aquatic ecosystem and be able to describe how to calculate gross and net primary productivity.
Biological Oxygen Demand (BOD) bottles (glass bottles with airtight lid; 4 or 6 bottles per group), Chorella (algae) culture, adult zebra mussels, state permit to possess live zebra mussels, local native bivalves (optional), scale, aluminum foil, full spectrum or ultraviolet grow lamp, method of measuring dissolved oxygen content of water (e.g. dissolved oxygen probe and meter, test kit, Winkler method), laboratory handout.

See laboratory handout for detailed instructions. In brief:

1)       Fill 7 BOD bottles with Chorella culture.

2)       Measure the dissolved oxygen content of one of the bottles and record this as initial.

3)       Place zebra mussels in 2 BOD bottles.

4)       Place local native bivalves in 2 other BOD bottles.

5)       Make sure there are no air bubbles at the top of the bottles and secure the lids.

6)       Label the 6 bottles.

7)       Wrap one zebra mussel bottle, one native bivalve bottle, and one algae bottle in aluminum foil so no light can get into the bottles.

8)       Place the bottles under the grow lamp for 24 to 48 hours.

9)       Measure the dissolved oxygen content of all six bottles.

10)   Calculate the gross productivity (light bottle – dark bottle) and the net productivity (light bottle – initial bottle) for the algae alone, with zebra mussels, and with native bivalves.

11)   Students write a formal lab report, including a graph of results and a discussion of the impact of zebra mussels on primary productivity compared with native bivalves’ impact and predictions of what will happen to algae populations in an invaded ecosystem.


Biology Lab Manual for Students . The College Board Advanced Placement Program, 2001.

Biology Lab Manual for Teachers . The College Board Advanced Placement Program, 2001.

State Standards
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