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Journal of Environmental Quality Abstract -

Phosphorus Removal Processes in a Wetland after a Decade of Receiving a Sewage Effluent


This article in JEQ

  1. Vol. 21 No. 4, p. 733-739
    Received: July 11, 1991

    * Corresponding author(s):
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  1. James G. Cooke *
  1. Water Quality Centre, National Inst. of Water & Atmospheric Res. Ltd., P.O. Box 11-115 Hamilton, New Zealand.



A study was made of the processes leading to phosphorus (P) removal in a wetland that received a high load of sewage-P for over a decade. The amounts of P accounted for by sediment deposition, sorption to detrital material, and uptake by above ground biomass were compared with the mass of P entering and leaving the wetland system. Phosphorus deposition was shown to be the most important sink for P with rates of up to 30 g P m−2 d−1 being recorded. The pronounced spatial distribution of deposition as well as laboratory experiments indicated that P deposition occurred predominantly by reaction between sewage-wetland waters (high in P, alkaline pH) and natural wetland waters (high in Fe and Al, acid pH) at or immediately below confluences joining their flow streams. Studies on P mass transport showed that the P removal rate (28–70%) was considerably greater than published values suggest could be predicted for this highly loaded (≃34 g P m−2 yr−1) system. It is suggested that the wetland configuration, whereby the flow from a relatively small area of sewage-impacted wetland, is joined by waters from much larger unimpacted wetlands, is the reason for the relatively large P removal in this system. The relative magnitudes of P sinks in this study are different enough from other studies to suggest that the present level of P removal in this wetland is sustainable.

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