In France, gravel vertical flow constructed wetlands (gVFCWs) were adapted to treat raw wastewater, which led to important accumulations of matter in filters (organic and mineral). To prevent clogging, large gravel sizes were employed (∅ 2–6 mm). The aim of this paper was to present the influences of matter accumulation on the hydraulic and biological behaviour of the system. A one-year survey of accumulated matter content and potential respiration activities was completed in three gVFCWs (operating for 3, 4 and 8 years). Cores were sampled into filters. Results showed a vertical stratification of accumulated matter and respiration rates. Dry accumulated matter quantities ranged from 20 kg m−2 (3 and 4 years operating) to 80 kg m−2 in the oldest plant (8 years). Potential respiration was larger in the oldest plant (75 g O2 m−2 h−1) than in the most recent one (15 g O2 m−2 h−1). Accumulated matter seemed to play a role both on the water retention (enhancing initial percolation time by 5 times) and biological profile (enhancing microfauna's diversity). Contrary to what is generally proposed in the literature, accumulated matter in French gVFCWs seemed to provide better treatment efficiency without leading to surface clogging compared to systems using sand.

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