Impact of plant density and microbial composition on water quality from a free water surface constructed wetland

J Appl Microbiol. 2007 Apr;102(4):921-36. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2672.2006.03181.x.


Aims: To correlate microbial community composition and water quality changes within wetland cells containing varying plant densities and composition in a free water surface (FWS) constructed wetland.

Methods and results: Water chemistry was monitored weekly for nitrate, orthophosphate, and suspended solids, at various sites throughout the wetland for 6 months. Treatment ponds with 50% plant cover had about a 96.3% nitrate removal. The average change between the influent and effluent was 50-60% nitrate removal and 40-50% orthophosphate removal. Community profile of total DNA, generated by using denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis (DGGE), was used to determine the major microbial composition associated with the wetland sediment, rhizosphere, and surface water. Bacterial cloned libraries were constructed, and 300 clones were analysed by amplified ribosomal DNA restriction analysis (ARDRA) and grouped into operational taxonomic units (OTUs). A total of 35, 31, and 36 different OTU were obtained from sediment, rhizosphere, and surface water, respectively. The bacterial members within the dominant group of our clone library belonged to unclassified taxa, while the second predominant group consisted of members of the phylum Proteobacteria. The dominant organisms within the class were in the gamma, beta, and delta classes.

Conclusion: Microbial diversity as determined by Shannon-Weaver index (H) was higher in the wetland cells with 50% plant density than the 100%. This was in agreement with the most efficient wetland contaminant removal units.

Significance and impact of the study: This study provides evidence that wetlands with 50% plant cover may promote the growth of diverse microbial communities that facilitate decomposition of chemical pollutants in surface water, and improve water quality.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Bacteria / isolation & purification*
  • California
  • Nitrates / analysis*
  • Nitrates / chemistry
  • Water Microbiology*
  • Wetlands*


  • Nitrates