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Dynamics in the bacterial community-level physiological profiles and hydrological characteristics of constructed wetland mesocosms during start-up

Weber, Kela P., Legge, Raymond L.
Ecological engineering 2011 v.37 no.5 pp. 666-677
Phragmites australis, bacterial communities, biofilm, constructed wetlands, evapotranspiration, experimental design, inoculum, microbial activity, monitoring, planting, porosity
The objective of this work was to study the effect of plant presence (Phragmites australis) and inoculant origin on wetland mesocosm start-up dynamics. Eight mesocosms were studied based on a duplicated 2² factorial design tracking bacterial community and hydrological changes during an 8 month start-up period. The mesocosms were characterized in terms of their hydrological character based on evapotranspiration (ET), porosity, and a dispersion coefficient. The microbiological regime was characterized using a microbial activity measure and community-level physiological profiling (CLPP) employing BIOLOG™ ECO plates. CLPP-related indices such as substrate richness, substrate diversity, over-all community profile, and community divergence are also presented. It was found that mesocosm porosities decreased over time as a result of media-related biofilm development. This biofilm development also contributed to a substantial increase in the dispersion coefficient in the mesocosms over the start-up period. Dispersion coefficients in planted systems reached values of ∼50–55cm²/min whereas in the unplanted systems values of ∼30–35cm²/min were observed. Bacterial community divergence in the mesocosms was quantified using a Euclidean-based divergence metric. All mesocosms showed a sharp increase in community divergence until day 75, at which point a steady state was reached. The interstitial communities were also characterized in terms of similarity based on the experimental design treatments. Four stages of mesocosm development were identified that can be described by an initial community state based on the origins of the initial inoculum [days 0–6]; a dynamic period where adjustments and shifts in the bacterial community occurred in all mesocosms [days 7–26]; a period where all interstitial CLPPs were quite similar [days 27–73]; and finally a shift towards unplanted and planted mesocosm CLPP groupings [days 74–232].