Wetlands have been widely applied for water quality amelioration. Enzymatic analysis was applied in a study of decomposition in constructed wetlands. We hypothesise that soil enzyme activities would be lower in wetland sediment than adjacent upland and that the lower soil enzyme activities are partly responsible for the water quality amelioration. Four soil enzyme activities (β-glucosidase, β-N-acetylglucosaminidase, phosphatase, and arylsulfatase) and microbial activity (electron transport system activity) were measured across a transect from a upland soil to a wetland sediment in two constructed wetland sites in the USA. Along with the activities, hydrochemistry was determined in inflow and outflow of the wetlands. In both wetlands, the enzyme activities in the sediments were significantly lower than the adjacent upland soils. For hydrochemistry, significant decreases were observed in phosphate and nitrate concentrations in outflow water compared to inflow water. However, there were no significant changes in other anions (F-, Cl-, SO42- . For dissolved organic carbon, it seems that the wetlands would be a source rather than a sink. The results suggest that the enzymatic approach represents a valuable method to assess decomposition processes in wetland sediments, and that characteristically low enzyme activities in the sediments may be important in the water quality amelioration function.