Potential nitrification and denitrification on different surfaces in a constructed treatment wetland

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Improved understanding of the importance of different surfaces in supporting attached nitrifying and denitrifying bacteria is essential if we are to optimize the N removal capacity of treatment wetlands. The aim of this study was therefore to examine the nitrifying and denitrifying capacity of different surfaces in a constructed treatment wetland and to assess the relative importance of these surfaces for overall N removal in the wetland. Intact sediment cores, old pine and spruce twigs, shoots of Eurasian watermilfoil (Myriophyllum spicatum L.), and filamentous macro-algae were collected in July and November 1999 in two basins of the wetland system. One of the basins had been constructed on land that contained lots of wood debris, particularly twigs of coniferous trees. Potential nitrification was measured using the isotope-dilution technique, and potential denitrification was determined using the acetylene-inhibition technique in laboratory microcosm incubations. Nitrification rates were highest on the twigs. These rates were three and 100 times higher than in the sediment and on Eurasian watermilfoil, respectively. Potential denitrification rates were highest in the sediment. These rates were three times higher than on the twigs and 40 times higher than on Eurasian watermilfoil. The distribution of denitrifying bacteria was most likely due to the availability of organic material, with higher denitrification rates in the sediment than on surfaces in the water column. Our results indicate that denitrification, and particularly nitrification, in treatment wetlands could be significantly increased by addition of surfaces such as twigs.


  • S K Bastviken
  • Peder Eriksson
  • I Martins
  • J M Neto
  • Lars Leonardson
  • K Tonderski
Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Ecology
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2414-2420
JournalJournal of Environmental Quality
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 2003
Publication categoryResearch