Genetic potential for N2O emissions from the sediment of a free water surface constructed wetland

Water Res. 2011 Nov 1;45(17):5621-32. doi: 10.1016/j.watres.2011.08.025. Epub 2011 Aug 30.


Removal of nitrogen is a key aspect in the functioning of constructed wetlands. However, incomplete denitrification may result in the net emission of the greenhouse gas nitrous oxide (N(2)O) resulting in an undesired effect of a system supposed to provide an ecosystem service. In this work we evaluated the genetic potential for N(2)O emissions in relation to the presence or absence of Phragmites and Typha in a free water surface constructed wetland (FWS-CW), since vegetation, through the increase in organic matter due to litter degradation, may significantly affect the denitrification capacity in planted areas. Quantitative real-time PCR analyses of genes in the denitrification pathway indicating capacity to produce or reduce N(2)O were conducted at periods of different water discharge. Genetic potential for N(2)O emissions was estimated from the relative abundances of all denitrification genes and nitrous oxide reductase encoding genes (nosZ). nosZ abundance was invariably lower than the other denitrifying genes (down to 100 fold), and differences increased significantly during periods of high nitrate loads in the CW suggesting a higher genetic potential for N(2)O emissions. This situation coincided with lower nitrogen removal efficiencies in the treatment cell. The presence and the type of vegetation, mainly due to changes in the sediment carbon and nitrogen content, correlated negatively to the ratio between nitrate and nitrite reducers and positively to the ratio between nitrite and nitrous oxide reducers. These results suggest that the potential for nitrous oxide emissions is higher in vegetated sediments.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Bacteria / genetics
  • Biological Oxygen Demand Analysis
  • Denitrification / genetics
  • Gene Dosage / genetics
  • Geography
  • Geologic Sediments / chemistry*
  • Linear Models
  • Nitrous Oxide / analysis*
  • Poaceae / genetics*
  • RNA, Ribosomal, 16S / genetics
  • Spain
  • Statistics, Nonparametric
  • Surface Properties
  • Time Factors
  • Typhaceae / genetics*
  • Waste Disposal, Fluid
  • Water / chemistry*
  • Wetlands*


  • RNA, Ribosomal, 16S
  • Water
  • Nitrous Oxide