Nitrogen removal in treatment wetlands: Factors influencing spatial and temporal variations

Decreasing the nitrogen transport from land to surrounding seas is a major task throughout the world to limit eutrophication of the coastal areas. Several approaches are currently used, including the establishment of wetlands, to decrease the transport of nitrogen. Wetlands represent ecosystems where the nitrogen removal from water can be efficient given that they are appropriately designed. The aim of this thesis was to investigate and quantify the effect of critical factors that regulate the nitrogen removal in wetlands, and to develop better guidelines for wetland design. Studies were performed at different scales, from microcosms to full scale wetlands, and methods included modelling, mass balance calculations and process studies.A first order rate model was used to simulate the nitrogen transformations in two large wetlands treating wastewater containing both ammonium and nitrate nitrogen. It was found that the dynamics of the main itrogen transformation processes could not be satisfactorily described using this approach. Large wetlands containing vegetation are complex ecosystems, and the process rates vary in both time and space. The great diversity of microenvironments favours different nitrogen processes, and large differences in potential nitrification and denitrification rates were found between different surface structures within a wetland. The results from microcosms measurements showed that the highest potential for nitrification was on surfaces in the water column, while the denitrification capacity was highest in the sediment.For the sediment denitrification capacity, the plant community composition was shown to be of major importance primarily by supplying litter serving as a carbon and energy source, and/or attachment surfaces, for denitrifying bacteria. Denitrification rates may be affected more than three fold by different types of litter and detritus in the sediments. Intact sediment cores from stands of the emergent plants Glyceria maxima and Typha latifolia had higher denitrification potential than sediment cores from stands of the submersed plant Potamogeton pectinatus. However, the quality of the organic material for the denitrifying bacteria was highest in G. maxima and P. pectinatus stands. All sediment cores from the wetland were limited by carbon, and the lower denitrification capacity of the submersed plant…


The nitrogen transformation processes in wetlands
The role of vegetation for nitrification and denitrification
The role of nutrient and hydraulic load for nitrification and denitrification
Constructed wetlands in the landscape
Rationale of this thesis
Microcosm process studies
Model approach for describing nitrogen removal
Spatial variability of the nitrogen removal processes
The effect of organic matter on denitrification
Critical hydraulic load for nitrate removal
Comparing wetland performance
Conclusions and future studies
Future studies

Author: Kallner Bastviken, Sofia

Source: Linköping University

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