Enhancing the treatment efficiency of livestock wastewater by effluent recirculation is investigated in a pilot-scale vertical-flow constructed wetland. The wetland system is composed of downflow and upflow stages, on which narrow-leaf Phragmites communis and common reed Phragmites typhia are planted, respectively; each stage has a dimension of 4 m2 (2 m×2 m). Wastewater from the facultative pond is fed into the system intermittently at a flow rate of 0.4 m3/d. Recirculation rates of 0, 25%, 50%, 100% and 150% are adopted to evaluate the effect of the recirculation rate on pollutants removal. This shows that with effluent recirculation the average removal efficiencies of NH4-N, BOD5 and SS obviously increase to 61.7%, 81.3%, and 77.1%, respectively, in comparison with the values of 35.6%, 50.2%, and 49.3% without effluent recirculation. But the improvement of TP removal is slight, only from 42.3% to 48.9%. The variations of NH4-N, DO and oxidation–reduction potential (ORP) of inflow and outflow reveal that the adoption of effluent recirculation is beneficial to the formation of oxide environment in wetland. The exponential relationships with excellent correlation coefficients (R2>0.93) are found between the removal rates of NH4-N and BOD5 and the recirculation rates. With recirculation the pH value of the outflow decreases as the alkalinity is consumed by the gradually enhanced nitrification process. When recirculation rate is kept constant at 100%, the ambient temperature appears to affect NH4-N removal, but does not have significant influence on BOD5 removal.

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