Macrophytes and bacteria are key drivers of nitrogen removal in constructed wetlands. Through mesocosm experiments with vegetated submerged beds and free water surface wetlands in various operational modes, wetland configurations, and system layouts, this study developed empirical models for non-destructive estimation of plant biomass growth and associated nitrogen assimilation and explored the combined effects of multiple factors that influence microbial nitrogen removal. The above-ground biomass of individual plants was a power function of plant height for both Cyperus alternifolius and Typha angustifolia. Below- to above-ground biomass ratio was 0.38 for C. alternifolius and 2.73 for T. angustifolia. Because of greater tolerance to ammonia stress, C. alternifolius and C. papyrus grew faster than T. angustifolia. There were no significant effects of wetland type, vegetation, and plant species on microbial nitrogen removal. Microbial nitrogen removal was inhibited by free ammonia at 13.3–16.2 mg N/L. Denitrification and anammox were suppressed at dissolved oxygen greater than 1.9 mg/L. Microbial removal of ammonia in vegetated submerged beds was sensitive mainly to dissolved oxygen, pH, and influent ammonia concentration, while in free water surface wetlands, it was sensitive to influent ammonia concentration, pH, and temperature.
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It is acknowledged that teaching assistants and many students in the Ecological Engineering for Water Quality classes from fall 2011 to spring 2017 operated and monitored the wetland treatment systems. Sean Matus completed additional measurements of plants in 2015. It is acknowledged that James Carmody proofread this revised manuscript.
SUNY ESF provided Graduate Assistantships to the teaching assistants and the ERE teaching funds provided partial support of laboratory expenses.
Compliance with ethical standards
Conflict of interest
The author declare that they have no conflict of interest.
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