NO3 - removal efficiency in field denitrification beds: key controlling factors and main implications

Environ Microbiol Rep. 2019 Jun;11(3):316-329. doi: 10.1111/1758-2229.12758. Epub 2019 May 1.


Nitrate pollution is a growing environmental threat that affects both ground- and surface-water. The typically used technique for nitrate elimination in wastewater treatment plants cannot be applied for all water streams as it necessitates a highly developed technical infrastructure. Field denitrification beds comprise one strategy to treat surface water containing high nitrate loads, which typically is due to the increasing agricultural land use. Here, the water passes through a basin containing a cheap carbon material as electron donor that provides the environmental niche for a complex microbial biocenosis. The microorganisms catalyse the hydrolysis of the polymeric organic carbon substrate and a variety of fermentative and respiratory pathways that are in the end supposed to lead to an efficient denitrification process. This review article integrates our current knowledge on environmental and operating parameters of and within denitrification beds including biotic and abiotic factors influencing the nitrate removal efficiency. Steering of these two factors can allow to minimise pollution swapping and the formation of greenhouse gases.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Biodegradation, Environmental
  • Bioreactors* / microbiology
  • Carbon / metabolism
  • Denitrification
  • Nitrates / isolation & purification
  • Nitrates / metabolism*
  • Water / chemistry
  • Water Microbiology
  • Water Purification*


  • Nitrates
  • Water
  • Carbon