Seasonal effects of 19 plant species on COD removal in subsurface treatment wetland microcosms
Taylor, Carrie R.
Hook, Paul B.
Stein, Otto R.
Zabinski, Catherine A.
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Plants have many well-documented influences in treatment wetlands, but differences in individual species’ effects on year-round and seasonal performance are poorly understood. In this study, we evaluated plant effects on seasonal patterns of organic carbon removal (measured as COD) and sulfate concentration (used as an indicator of rootzone oxidation) in replicated, batch-loaded, greenhouse microcosms simulating subsurface treatment wetlands. Microcosms were planted with monocultures of 19 plant species or left unplanted as controls, dosed every 20 days with synthetic secondary wastewater, and operated over 20 months at temperatures from 4 to 24 °C. Study-long COD removal averaged 70% for controls and 70–97% for individual species. Most species enhanced COD removal significantly and the benefits of plants were greatest at 4–8 °C because COD removal decreased at low temperatures in controls but displayed limited seasonal variation in planted microcosms. Removal was significantly better at 24 °C than 4 °C with two species (Panicum virgatum and Leymus cinereus), significantly poorer with two species (Carex utriculata and Phalaris arundinacea), and did not differ with 15 species. Only one species showed a significant positive correlation between temperature and COD removal (Iris missouriensis, r = 0.67), while two species showed significant negative correlations (better when colder: Carex nebrascensis, r = −0.67; C. utriculata, r = −0.93). High COD removal throughout the study was strongly associated with high SO4 concentrations at low temperatures, suggesting that plant performance is related to rootzone oxidation and species’ abilities to promote aerobic over anaerobic microbial processes, particularly in winter. Results indicate that improved year-round and cold-season COD removal is common across diverse wetland plant species and novel species can be as good or better than those typically used. Better performing species were largely in the sedge and rush families (Cyperaceae and Juncaceae), while poorer performing species were largely in the grass family (Poaceae).
Taylor CR, Hook PB, Stein OR, Zabinski CA, "Seasonal effects of 19 plant species on COD removal in subsurface treatment wetland microcosms," Ecological Engineering, May 2011 37(5):703–710