Microorganisms constitute a central component of constructed wetlands (CWs), playing a major role in these systems' capacity for treating wastewater. The aim of this study was to determine the diversity and composition of the microbial community found in a recirculating vertical flow CW (RVFCW) bed fed with primarily settled domestic wastewater and its response to the presence of plants, season and location in the bed. The RVFCW removed 90–95% of TSS and BOD5 to below 10 mg L−1. The effluent quality was not significantly affected by seasonal temperature or the existence of plants in the bed. None of these factors had discernible effects on bacterial diversity, e.g. in the planted RVFCW, the richness (S′) and Shannon–Weiner diversity (H′) indices were 18.3 (±3.5) and 2.49 (±0.15), respectively, which are similar to the values of 19.4 (±3.5) and 2.57 (±0.18) in the unplanted RVFCW. However, there were indications that the structure of the microbial community underwent changes that were uncorrelated with the environmental factors tested and that did not affect the overall performance. The consistency in diversity and composition/structure of the bacterial community in the face of temporal and environmental influences possibly contributes to the robustness and high treatment capacity of the RVFCW system.

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