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Water Science & Technology Vol 48 No 2 pp 121–128 © IWA Publishing 2003

Suitability of macrophytes for nutrient removal from surface flow constructed wetlands receiving secondary treated sewage effluent in Queensland, Australia

M. Greenway

School of Environmental Engineering and Co-operative Research Centre Catchment Hydrology, Griffith University, Nathan, QLD 4111, Australia (E-mail: m.greenway@mailbox.gu.edu.au)

From a botanical perspective the major difference between waste stabilisation ponds and wetlands is the dominance of algae or floating plants in the former and emergent plants in the latter. Algae, floating and submerged plants remove nutrients directly from the water column whereas emergent species remove nutrients from the sediment. Water depth is a crucial factor in determining which plant types will become established. Surface flow constructed wetlands offer the greatest potential to grow a wide variety of different types of macrophytes. In assessing the suitability of plant species for nutrient removal, consideration must be given not only to nutrient uptake for growth but also storage of nutrients as plant biomass. A survey of macrophytes in 15 surface flow constructed wetlands treating secondary effluent was conducted in Queensland; 63 native species and 14 introduced species were found. Emergent species have been able to tolerate deeper water than in their natural environment and permanent waterlogging. All species grew well in the higher nutrient enriched wastewater. Submerged, floating leaved-attached and free floating species had the highest tissue nutrient content, followed by aquatic creepers. All these species remove nutrients from the water column. Emergent species had lower nutrient content but a greater biomass and were therefore able to store more nutrients per unit area of wetland. In order to maximise the efficiency of constructed wetlands for nutrient removal, a range of species should be used. Native species should be selected in preference to introduced/exotic species.

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