Microbial communities play a critical role in degrading organic contaminants in treatment wetlands; however, an understanding of the different roles played by rhizospheric, gravel-associated and interstitial microbial communities is deficient due to a lack of data directly comparing these microbial communities. Community level physiological profiling (CLPP) was used to compare the catabolic capabilities of rhizospheric, gravel-associated and interstitial microbial communities in vertical-flow planted and unplanted wetland mesocosms. Wetland mesocosms were decommissioned to gather microbial community samples associated with the roots and gravel bed media taken from the top (10 cm depth), middle (30 cm depth) and bottom (60 cm depth). The catabolic capabilities of the rhizospheric microbial communities were seen to be much greater than those of the gravel-associated communities. A decrease in catabolic capability was seen with increasing depth, suggesting that communities near the surface play a larger role in the degradation of carbon-based compounds. A general difference in catabolic profiles based on plant presence/absence was observed for the interstitial water and all gravel-associated samples at all depths, suggesting that the presence of roots within part of the mesocosm not only has a localized effect on the attached microbial population, but also on gravel-associated microbial communities throughout the mesocosms.

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