Plant species for floating treatment wetlands: A decade of experiments in North Italy

Sci Total Environ. 2021 Jan 10:751:141666. doi: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2020.141666. Epub 2020 Aug 16.


Floating treatment wetlands (FTWs) represent a recent system within the family of surface flow wetlands, able to directly treat various types of wastewaters in natural or artificial water bodies. In these conditions, traditional non-floating macrophytes, installed in self-buoyant mats, hydroponically expand their root systems in the wastewater, interacting with a rich microbial biodiversity and thereby removing different pollutants. This study aimed to evaluate the growth performances of 5 plant species installed in different FTWs after ten years of research conducted in North Italy: Phragmites australis, Iris pseudacorus, Typha latifolia, Carex spp. and Lythrum salicaria. During the entire experimental period, above-mat biomass production varied from 46.7 g m-2 (L. salicaria) to 1466.0 g m-2 (T. latifolia), whereas below-mat biomass production ranged between 205.7 g m-2 (L. salicaria) and 4331.1 g m-2 (P. australis). Both shoot height and root length assumed the highest values for T. latifolia (189.0 cm and 59.3 cm, respectively), the lowest for L. salicaria (42.3 cm and 35.1 cm, respectively). All plant species increased both above- and below-mat biomass productions over consecutive growing seasons through horizontal colonization of the floating mats, although not always significantly. Moreover, the growth of I. pseudacorus, P. australis and T. latifolia was significantly influenced by wastewater physico-chemical composition, exhibiting species-specific behavior. In general, all species showed a good aptitude to survive in hydroponic conditions both during the growing season and the winter, even though in a few cases the survival of I. pseudacorus and P. australis was strongly reduced by alien predators (Myocastor coypus) that badly damaged plant aerial tissues.

Keywords: Carex spp.; Iris pseudacorus; Lhytrum salicaria; Phragmites australis; Root-shoot ratio; Survival rate; Typha latifolia.

MeSH terms

  • Biomass
  • Italy
  • Poaceae
  • Typhaceae*
  • Wetlands*