Nutrients in Soil Samples in a Four Region Area;

Swamp, Wood, Water, and Field



By: Kathryn Romanowich and Jaqueta Johnson

BI 341-Ecology

Fall 1999-2000

Rebecca Burton





An area that contains a swamp, a wooded area, a lake, and a field in close proximity, was soil tested to see if the nutrient levels were different in each of the areas. As nutrients are leached down through the soil to the water shed were it will be pushed back up through the ground into the lake. We hypothesized that the nutrient content would be highest in the lake mud, second in the swamp, lower in the woods with the meadow having the lowest nutrient content. Soil also acts to maintain, store and offer nutrients to plants (The Soil Bank). When these nutrients are being taken in by plant life, in densely populated areas, they are not abundant in soil. Random samples were taken in each of the four areas. Phosphorus, nitrogen, potassium, and pH were tested for each soil sample obtained.





We chose Mud Lake as the site to perform our soil samples. It is a natural spring-fed lake that is not adjacent to any farmland or high traffic area. Therefore, the nutrients we find should be natural to the environment. Our hypothesis is that the nutrients will be highest in the lake mud because the lake is spring fed. The nutrients will be leached down through the soil to the water shed were it will be pushed back up through the ground into the lake. We also believe the decomposition of materials will contribute to the nutrient content.

Soil is a very important part of the ecosystem. It is an effective storage source of water, nutrients and minerals; which in turn reduces environmental stress (Mausbach 1999). Soil helps to regulate the flow of water over and through the land. A large area around Mud Lake consists of many little pond and swamp areas. This whole area serves as a flood plane.


To collect our sample, we went out into Mud Lake in Franklin. The first set of samples were collected in the evening around 60 degrees Fahrenheit on October 6, 1999. The second set was collected in the afternoon around 40 degrees Fahrenheit on November 20, 1999. For both days, the first area we sampled was the swamp area. We did random sampling of the areas by alternating spinning around three times with our eyes closed and throwing the birdie in the area and wherever it landed, we stuck the Bore Stick into the ground. We measured down 10 cm with the Bore Stick. We examined the sample and dislodged it with a stick into a plastic zip lock baggy. Within the same area, we threw the birdie again and collected another sample.

We then proceeded to the wooded area. There were a lot of trees and bushes so we had a hard time with the birdie landing into the bushes and branches. Basically, we either waited until it dropped or we threw it again. We collected the sample where the birdie fell and copied the same procedure in the swamp. Within the same area, we threw the birdie and collected another sample.

Next, we proceeded to the water this area was very difficult to obtain our samples from. We were going to throw the birdie up but then we thought it would land too far into the water. So instead we threw it near the shore of the water. In other words, we went way inland and spun around and threw the birdie. By this time, the birdie was a little dirty so we changed the paper around it. We also had a difficult time trying to get a good sample because the shore was riddled with rocks. The soil we were trying to get to was covered with rocks. So we had to dig the rocks away to get to the soil and then proceeded with the rest of the procedure. We also took two samples here.

Finally, we took field samples following the procedure already mapped out. After collecting these samples, we took them home and used the soil kit from the classroom to analyze our samples. The soil samples were analyzed for pH, potassium, nitrogen and phosphorus contents.


The samples from both days were very consistent with each other. The samples for the swamp were black, thick and soft. The samples for the woods were dry and brown. The samples for the water sample were very black and obviously moist. The samples for the field were very light in color and dry, almost powdery. The results of those tests are listed on a data table on the following page labeled Figure 1.

For the pH test, all the samples were basic with the swamp measuring more neutral. The potassium test showed that Swamp1 and Field 2 were indicated as "medium" in the samples we collected. However, we had three "low" potassium readings, those are Swamp 2, Wood 1, and Field 1. Both water samples were "med-low". The Nitrogen test showed that all the areas except the Field had "trace" amounts of nitrogen. For the Phosphorus test, the Field had "trace" amounts; Wood 2 and Water 2 had "medium" amounts. The Swamp samples, Wood 1 and Water 1 had "low" amounts of phosphorus. The samples from the second day were more stable than the first day. Those results can be located on the Data Sheet Figure 2.


We predicted that the nutrient content would be higher in the lake mud, next the swamp, then the wood and the lowest in the field meadow. In further research, we found that nitrogen, potassium and phosphorous get into the soil mostly from fertilization (Ebdon 1999). Another way they get into soil is from the break down of rock. Perhaps this explains why nitrogen levels are so low, with no farmland connected in any way to the area fertilizers can not in. The area, as stated earlier, is very natural so the spring waters bubbling up through the rock could account for the higher levels of potassium and phosphate.




Area pH Potassium drops Nitrogen Phosphorus

Swamp1 7.5 Med 15 Trace Low

Swamp2 7 Low 18 Trace Low

Wood1 8 Low 18 Trace Low

Wood2 8 Med 14 Trace Med

Water1 8 Med-Low 16 Trace Low

Water2 8 Med-Low 16 Trace Med

Field1 8 Low 18 None Trace

Field2 8 Med 15 None Trace

Figure 1: Soil Analysis at Mud-Lake, Franklin, WI October 6, 1999 60 F



Area pH Potassium drops Nitrogen Phosphorus

Swamp1 7.5 Med 16 Trace Low

Swamp2 7 Low 18 Trace Low

Wood1 8 Low 19 Trace Low

Wood2 8 Med 14 Trace Med

Water1 8 Med-Low 16 Trace Med

Water2 8 Med-Low 18 Trace Med

Field1 8 Med 18 None Trace

Field2 8 Med 15 None Trace

Figure 2: Soil Analysis at Mud-Lake, Franklin, WI November 20,1999 40 F




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Ebdon, Petrovic, and White. (Jan. 1999). Interaction of Nitrogen, Phosphorus, and Potassium on Evapotranspiration Rate and Growth of Kentucky Bluegrass. Crop Sciencce. V39 i1 p209(1)

Mausbach, Maurice J. (Spring 1999). The Soil Resource. Journal of Soil and Water Conservation. V54 i2 p450

The Soil Bank. Spring 1999. Whole Earth. P22(1)