The effectiveness of water lettuce in removing pollutants including organic pollutants, nitrogen (NH3-N) and total phosphorus (TP) from livestock wastewater along with the physiological effects and their correlations, was studied for the first time. The results showed that the water lettuce had higher removal efficiency with low concentrations of livestock wastewater. The removal efficiency of water lettuce for different initial concentrations of livestock wastewater within 8 d was as follows: chemical oxygen demand (CODcr) (68–82%) > NH3-N (57–69%) >TP (27–45%). The speed of purification of water lettuce for CODcr, NH3-N and TP conformed to first order kinetics equations. The water quality indices CODcr, NH3-N and TP had a higher linear correlation with peroxidase (POD) activity (R2 > 0.92) than with superoxide dismutase (SOD) and catalase (CAT) activity, which indicates that the main reacting enzyme of water lettuce under high CODcr stress is peroxidase.

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