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Nitrogen removal efficiencies in a free water surface constructed wetland in relation to plant coverage

García-Lledó, A., Ruiz-Rueda, O., Vilar-Sanz, A., Sala, L., Bañeras, L.
Ecological engineering 2011 v.37 no.5 pp. 678-684
Phragmites australis, Typha latifolia, ammonification, constructed wetlands, nitrate reduction, nitrogen, nitrogen content, pH, sediments, stainless steel, surface water, temperature, vegetation
Vegetation coverage is considered to be a key factor controlling nitrogen removal in wetlands. We describe the use of newly designed stainless steel incubation chambers to detect shifts in the in situ nitrate reduction activities associated to areas covered with common reed (Phragmites australis) and cattail (Typha latifolia) in the sediment of a free water surface constructed wetland (FWS-CW). Activities were measured at six different positions and times of the year and were related to physicochemical and hydraulic variables. Mean nitrate+nitrite reduction activities varied from 11.1 to 69.4mgN/m²/h and showed a high variability within sediment types. Ammonification rates accounted for roughly 10% of the total nitrate reduction and were especially relevant in vegetated areas. Measured activities were highly above total nitrogen removal efficiencies estimated in the three parallel treatment cells of the Empuriabrava FWS-CW, indicating the potentiality of the system. In situ nitrate reduction activities correlated well with physichochemical characteristics such as pH and temperature. Additionally, differences in the total nitrogen removal efficiencies were detected between the three treatment cells and were related to changes in the water retention time. The plant species effect was detected in treatment cells of comparable hydraulic loads in which vegetation belts dominated by Typha latifolia were shown to have greater nitrogen removal efficiencies.