A greenhouse experiment was conducted at Tennessee Valley Authority, Alabama, USA, in the summer of 1993 to investigate ammonium and nitrate removal processes in constructed wetlands. Microcosm wetlands cells were used in the study and consisted of plastic containers with 0.4 × 0.35 m2 surface area and 0.5 m depth. Two separate experiments were conducted. One experiment analyzed NH4-N removal and the other analyzed NO3-N removal. Nutrient solutions containing approximately 48 mg/l NH4-N or NO3-N were added in a batch mode to the wetland microcosms and the solution chemistry was analyzed with time. Treatments consisted of unplanted cells or cells planted with canarygrass (Phalaris arundinacea), reed (Phragmites communis), bulrush (Scirpus atrovirens georgianus) or typha (Typha latifolia). Another treatment consisted of added nutrient solutions containing or not containing C at 112 mg/l. In the NH4-N removal experiment, the rate of NH4-N removal occurred in the order: reed > canarygrass = bulrush > typha ≫ unplanted in wetland cells with and without C. The order of NH4-N removal was believed to be associated with the density of root biomass in the gravel. The greater the root biomass, the greater the chance for plant N uptake or nitrification mediated by O2 transport to the rhizosphere. In the NO3-N experiment, the rate of NO3-N removal occurred in the order: reed = canarygrass > typha = bulrush > unplanted cells. Labelled K15NO3 was used to trace the NO3-N removal process. By measuring the 15N in the plant biomass, the quantity of NO3-N removed via plant uptake was delineated from combined removal processes of denitrification and immobilization. In the treatments with C, 55 to 70% of the NO3-N was removed via denitrification and immobilzation. For bulrush, reed and typha, the quantity of NO3-N removed via denitrification and immobilization without added C was reduced to 14 to 30%. However, NO3-N removal via denitrification and immobilization remained high at 72% of added NO3-N in canarygrass cells due to high concentrations of organic C released from the canarygrass roots (15-20 mg/l C) that apparently did not limit denitrification or immobilization.

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