Patterns of development and abnormalities among tadpoles in a constructed wetland receiving treated wastewater

Environ Sci Technol. 2010 Jul 1;44(13):4862-8. doi: 10.1021/es903785x.


Constructed wetlands are promoted for effectiveness at treating wastewater and potential value as wildlife habitat; however, wildlife performance studies in treated wastewater wetlands are limited. We used repeated surveys of larval amphibians along three wetland systems and four reference sites to test the hypothesis that bullfrog tadpoles exposed to direct inputs of treated wastewater develop slower, show a higher frequency of abnormalities, and are smaller at metamorphosis compared to tadpoles from reference ponds. Bullfrog tadpoles from wastewater wetlands were similar in size at metamorphosis compared to tadpoles from reference sites; however, they did show a much higher frequency of abnormalities including severe edema, scoliosis, and extreme calcinosis of soft tissues. Calcinosis was novel to the literature on amphibian abnormalities, the most frequent abnormality, and restricted exclusively to treatment wetlands. Within the constructed wetlands, tadpole development was slower and the frequency of scoliosis and calcinosis was higher in those cells receiving direct inputs of treated wastewater. Our results suggest that portions of constructed wetlands that directly receive treated wastewater may be poor amphibian habitat.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Calcinosis / etiology
  • Conservation of Natural Resources
  • Environmental Exposure
  • Environmental Monitoring / methods
  • Environmental Pollutants
  • Georgia
  • Larva / physiology*
  • Metamorphosis, Biological
  • Reference Values
  • Time Factors
  • Waste Disposal, Fluid
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical / analysis*
  • Water Purification / methods*
  • Wetlands


  • Environmental Pollutants
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical