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Phosphorus release from sediments in a treatment wetland: Contrast between DET and EPC0 methodologies

By Elizabeth J. Palmer-Felgate, Michael J. Bowes, Charlie Stratford, Colin Neal and MacKenzie Sally


Wetlands are capable of reducing nutrient loadings to receiving water bodies, and hence many artificial wetlands have been constructed for wastewater nutrient removal. In this study, diffusive equilibrium in thin films (DETs) and equilibrium phosphorus concentration (EPC0) analysis were used to examine the role of sediment as a nutrient source or sink in a constructed treatment wetland in summer. The effect of dredging on sediment-water nutrient exchange was also studied. Soluble reactive phosphorus (SRP), ammonium (NH4+) and sulphate (SO42−) concentration profiles were measured by DET across the sediment-water interface (SWI) in both a settling pond and iris reed bed within the wetland. The SRP concentrations in the sediment pore-waters of the settling pond were extremely high (up to 29,500 μg l−1) near the SWI. This is over an order of magnitude higher than the levels found in the water column, which in turn are over an order of magnitude higher than environmental levels proposed to limit eutrophication in rivers. The profiles demonstrated an average net release of SRP and NH4+ from the settling pond sediment to the overlying water of 58 mg m−2 d−1 (±32 mg m−2 d−1 (1 sd)) and 16 mg m−2 d−1 (±25 mg m−2 d−1 (1 sd)), respectively. The DET SO42− concentration profiles revealed that the sediment was anoxic within 2 cm of the SWI. Dredging of the reed bed made no significant difference to the P release characteristics across the SWI. The EPC0s were much lower than the SRP concentration of the overlying water, indicating that the sediment had the potential to act as a phosphate sink. The apparent contradiction of the DET and EPC0 results is attributed to the fact that DET measurements are made in situ, where as EPC0 measurements are ex situ. These results show that substantial releases of P can occur from wetland sediments, and also highlight the need for caution when interpreting ex situ EPC0 analytical results.\ud \u

Topics: Chemistry
Year: 2011
DOI identifier: 10.1016/j.ecoleng.2010.12.024
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