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Maximizing pollutant removal in constructed wetlands: Should we pay more attention to macrophyte species selection?

Brisson, J., Chazarenc, F.
Science of the total environment 2009 v.407 no.13 pp. 3923-3930
constructed wetlands, subsurface flow, pollutants, pollution control, macrophytes, wetland plants
While the positive role of macrophytes on removal efficiency in constructed wetlands has been well established, possible differences in performance between plants species of comparable life forms and sizes are much harder to demonstrate. We reviewed 35 experimental studies published in peer-reviewed journals and proceedings on the effect of macrophyte species selection on pollutant removal in SSFCW. The studies cover a wide range of macrophyte species, experimental approaches (from well-replicated microcosm experiments to comparison between full full-size constructed wetlands), climatic conditions (from tropical to cold-temperate) and types of effluent (domestic, industrial, etc.). Frequent methodological limitations in these studies compel caution in the interpretation of their results. Yet, the fact that the majority found some (occasionally large) differences in efficiency between plant species for one or more type of pollutant suggests that macrophyte species selection does matter. However, there is little generalization to be made that could help guide species selection for SSFCW, except for the exact conditions in which the experiments were done. For example, the same pair of species that was tested in different studies occasionally gave opposite results in terms of which one performs best. Also, most studies provided few insights on the mechanisms or plant properties that could explain the observed differences in plant species efficiency. Finally, we discuss other relevant research questions and approaches that could help better guide macrophyte species selection for CW.