5. Conclusion

5.1 Practical Applications

The results obtained shows that duckweed can be used as a bioindicator in various water bodies. This is because there has been a positive result from our experiment. This result being the fact that the growth of the plant (namely the number of leaves) depleted and/or grew less healthy, becoming white and/or yellow as the salt content increased. Henceforth, governmental agencies can use duckweed to ensure the safety of our water resources such as lakes. Furthermore, we obtain a lot of resources from water bodies. This ranges from food supply, such as fish and mussels, to water for our daily needs, such as bathing and drinking. This would hence prevent disasters such as the Minamata Disaster, Japan.

In the Minamata Disaster, Japan, the poisoning spread due to the inability of concrete evidence. In 1990, the Japanese Government explained that government had not applied the Food Sanitation Act in 1957 as the etiological agent (methylmercury) had not yet been identified (Tsuda, T., Yorifuji, T., Takao, S., Miryai, M., & Babazono, A.. (2009)). Although the etiologic agent had not been clearly identified in 1957, the cause/transmission was known as early as 1956 (Tsuda, T., Yorifuji, T., Takao, S., Miryai, M., & Babazono, A.. (2009)). When a cause/ transmission is identified, public health authorities are to, according to the Act, take preventive measures, even if they do not know the etiologic agent (Tsuda, T., Yorifuji, T., Takao, S., Miryai, M., & Babazono, A.. (2009)).

We hence feel that if duckweed was present and used, there would be more concrete evidence in this area and less lives would have been impacted negatively by this unfortunate disaster.

Another way that we can apply the results collected is to track the water quality of our drinking water such as the water that comes out of our taps. If the water is contaminated, the duckweed would grow more unhealthy as seen in the experiment. Therefore this would ensure that our water is clean and ideal for drinking purposes. However, few would want to use this method because there are already machines in place for this purpose. Although these machines are more accurate than duckweed, they might not be able to pick up traces of contaminants that they are not programmed to detect. Henceforth, we feel that duckweed can be an additional method to test the water quality.

Since developing countries or countries with a weaker economy would be unable to afford expensive equipment, duckweed would be a better alternative. Because duckweed cost little to nothing and requires little maintenance and facilities to grow, they would be very suitable in this aspect. Countries such as India which faces the issue of clean drinking water but are unable to afford expensive equipment to detect such occurrences due to their weak economy can also use duckweed as another alternative. As such, duckweed will be useful in this aspect.

5.2 Areas for further study

Salt is only one of the pollutants that we have used in this experiment. Other pollutants that will have a bigger impact on mankind such as factory waste, acid rain or mercury were not used or tested on duckweed in this experiment. Furthermore, we did not find any journals, books or websites where they have tested duckweed with the above mentioned pollutants. Therefore, we are unable to prove totally, through this experiment, that duckweed can be used as bioindicator for such pollutants. Hence, an area for further study is to study whether or not duckweed can be used as a bioindicator in the above areas. As such this would further support our claim that duckweed can be used as a bioindicator to prevent disasters with relation to water pollution such as the Minamata Disaster, Japan where a pollutant similar to/is mercury was involved. Since duckweed shows signs of unhealthiness very quickly (stunted growth and wilted leaves) that was observed in our experiment, the environmental agencies tracking the water bodies will be able to identify whether the water body is contaminated in an instance.

This genre of research (using natural bioindicators in the field of detecting water pollution) can be related to the journal titled “Assessment of Bacillus subtilis Spores as a Possible Bioindicator for Evaluation of the Microbicidal Efficacy of Radiation Processing of Water” written by Pribil, W. et al. (2007). This Journal written by Pribil, W. et al. (2007) talks about how they used gamma and electron-beam irradiation of Bacillus subtilis spores suspended in different types of water to assess their functionality as a bioindicator. However their results proved negative as they found that the Bacillus subtilis Spores could not be used as a bioindicator for evaluation of the microbicidal efficacy of ionizing radiation processing of water (Pribil, W. et al. (2007)). This was as Pribil, W. et al. (2007) found that Bacillus subtilis Spores had a high radiation resistance. Therefore, Bacillus subtilis Spores would not be efficient as bioindicators for water treatment by radiation as they might become overly conservative surrogates for pathogenic genic microorganisms (Pribil, W. et al. (2007)).

According to the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) (2016), polluted or dirty water is the biggest health risk in the world, and threatens both quality of life and public health in countries such as the United States. When water from rain runs off roofs and roads into our rivers, it picks up toxic chemicals, disease-carrying organisms and other pollutants(Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) (2016)). Many water resources lack basic protections, causing vulnerability to pollution from factory farms, industrial plants, and other activities (Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) (2016)). This can result in drinking water contamination, habitat degradation and beach closures (Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) (2016)).

Henceforth, if studies to further experiment with the reaction of duckweed with different pollutants that have a bigger effect on our water bodies such as factory waste; we might be able to identify whether duckweed is an effective bioindicator in this range of pollutants. Furthermore, if those results prove positive, it would have a great impact on the world in the field of natural bioindicators of water pollution.

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