Influence of hydropattern and vegetation on phosphorus reduction in a constructed wetland under high and low mass loading rates

Moustafa, M. Z., et al., 2012. Ecological Engineering

Original research (primary data)
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Large constructed wetlands are extensively used in south Florida for surface water quality improvement as well as for flood control. Due to the periodic wet-dry climate of this region, it is likely that soils in these large constructed wetlands may become dry or partially dry (experiencing drawdown), which represent a challenge to managing and optimizing phosphorus (P) reductions in these systems. Therefore, we designed an experiment to study the interactive effect of hydropattern (batch vs. continuous flow) and the presence or absence of emergent vegetation on P exchange between surface water and organic soil in two sets of 12 mesocosms. These 24 mesocosms were filled with 30-cm deep peat soil, and each set were subjected to either high (12.5 g m(-2) year(-1)) or low (3.4 g m(-2) year(-1)) P loading from surface water. All treatments performed similarly prior to surface water drawdown with P reductions being relatively high for high P loading rates and being low for low P loading rates. Mesocosms subject to wet-dry-wet cycles exhibited a three- to four-fold increase in surface water effluent P concentrations immediately following soil re-flooding, which lasted 1-3 and 3-10 weeks for low and high P loading rates, respectively. The magnitude of P flux from sediment to surface water and the time period over which P release took place were P loading-dependent (higher loading led to higher P flux compared to lower P loading rates), and season-dependent (a longer duration of higher P flux experienced during dry- compared to wet-season drawdowns). Results indicated that hydropattern was the dominant factor affecting P flux to overlying surface water for the high P loading rate, while the presence or absence of emergent vegetation was the dominant factor influencing P release for the low P loading rate. Treatments lacking emergent vegetation generated the most particulate P (PP) for both high and low P loading rates. All P fractions were correlated to either hydropattern or inflow concentrations, for both low and high P loading rates, and, with the exception of PP, correlated to vegetation at low-P loading rate. Our results indicated that the presence or absence of emergent vegetation is a critical factor in the management of large constructed wetlands receiving low P loadings while hydropattern should be the focus in managing treatment systems receiving high loads of P. Regardless of the P loading rates, maintaining moist soils in large constructed wetlands is a good management strategy, particularly during dry climatic periods, to minimize soil P oxidation and P flux to surface water after soil re-flooding.

Case studies

Basic information

  • Case ID: INT-178-1
  • Intervention type: Created habitats
  • Intervention description:

    Mesocosm experiments of constructed wetlands – testing different management options of the wetlands: four treatment scenarios: (1) two plant treatments – one emergent, with planted Typha domingensis and other emergents, and a second, non-emergent treatment that was not planted and maintained free of all emergents; and (2) two hydropattern treat- ments – one that was continuously flooded, and a second that was intermittently flooded.

  • Landscape/sea scape ecosystem management: No
  • Climate change impacts Effect of Nbs on CCI Effect measures
    Reduced water quality  Positive P flux (effluent) to overlying surface water in different P fractions including total P, Soluble reactive phosphorus, Particulate phosphorus Effectiveness determined by monitoring the changes in the measures (see outcome measures ) when passing through the constructed wetlands
  • Approach implemented in the field: Yes
  • Specific location:

    Stormwater Treatment Areas near EvergladesNationalPark in southern florida

  • Country: United States of America
  • Habitat/Biome type: Created wetland |
  • Issue specific term: Not applicable


  • Notes on intervention effectivness: Effectiveness determined by monitoring the changes in the measures (see outcome measures ) when passing through the constructed wetlands Although not all management scenarios were effective, the purpose of the experiments was to find the optimal scenario and therefore as the found scenarios effective at treating the P discharge during dry periods, the overall outcome is positive
  • Is the assessment original?: Yes
  • Broadtype of intervention considered: Not applicable
  • Compare effectivness?: No
  • Compared to the non-NBS approach: Not applicable
  • Report greenhouse gas mitigation?: No
  • Impacts on GHG: Not applicable
  • Assess outcomes of the intervention on natural ecosystems: No
  • Impacts for the ecosystem: Not reported
  • Ecosystem measures: n/a
  • Assess outcomes of the intervention on people: No
  • Impacts for people: Not reported
  • People measures: n/a
  • Considers economic costs: No
  • Economic appraisal conducted: No
  • Economic appraisal described:
  • Economic costs of alternative considered: No
  • Compared to an alternative: Not reported

Evaluation methodology

  • Type of data: Quantitative
  • Is it experimental: No
  • Experimental evalution done: Not applicable
  • Non-experimental evalution done: Empirical case study
  • Study is systematic: