Evapotranspiration dynamics in aerated and non-aerated subsurface flow treatment wetlands

Sci Total Environ. 2022 Oct 15;843:156605. doi: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2022.156605. Epub 2022 Jun 23.


This study reports the seasonal dynamics of evapotranspiration (ET) and evaporation (E) in different subsurface flow treatment wetlands operating in a temperate European climate. Daily water balances were compiled over the course of ten years (August 2010-July 2020). The study includes non-aerated horizontal flow wetlands (25 cm deep and 50 cm deep) as well as horizontal flow and vertical flow wetlands. The pilot systems were operated in planted and unplanted pairs, enabling Phragmites evapotranspiration rates (for planted systems) and evaporation rates (for unplanted systems) to be calculated. Evapotranspiration rates are highly seasonal. Aeration was observed to increase both evaporation and evapotranspiration rates. The overall percentage of inflow lost to ET was highest in non-aerated wetlands, due to the lower hydraulic load that they received compared to the aerated systems. Plant coefficients (Kp) relate measured evapotranspiration with the calculated reference evapotranspiration ETo. Wetlands planted with Phragmites display dynamic and highly seasonal values of Kp which are well-characterized by a sinusoidal curve during the growing season paired with a minimum (stable) value in the non-growing season. Aeration was observed to increase both evapotranspiration and evaporation rates. The concept of a Plant Scaling Factor (PSF) is introduced as a way of quantifying the "clothesline effect" observed in small treatment wetlands. Whereas unplanted systems effectively have a PSF of zero, the systems in this study (ranging in size from 5.6 to 6.2 m2) exhibited PSF values between 3.8 and 4.8 when the vegetation was fully mature.

Keywords: Aeration; Clothesline effect; Crop coefficient; Horizontal flow wetland; Phragmites australis; Plant coefficient.

MeSH terms

  • Plant Transpiration*
  • Plants
  • Poaceae
  • Seasons
  • Waste Disposal, Fluid
  • Wetlands*