2017 journal article
Nitrate removal potential of restored wetlands loaded with agricultural drainage water: A mesocosm scale experimental approach
Ecological Engineering, 106, 541–554.
Wetland restoration is often conducted in Eastern U.S. coastal plain watersheds alongside agricultural lands that frequently export significant amounts of nitrogen in drainage water. Restoration plans that incorporate the addition of agricultural drainage water can simultaneously increase the success of achieving a target hydroperiod and reduce discharge of nitrogen to nearby surface water. The potential nitrogen removal effectiveness of two wetland restoration sites with such a restoration plan was evaluated in a two-year mesocosm study. Six large wetland mesocosms (3.5 m long × 0.9 m wide × 0.75 m deep) along with unplanted controls were used in this experiment. Three replicates of two soils that differed in organic matter and pH were planted with soft-stem bulrush (Schoenoplectus tabernaemontani) and allowed to develop in the two growing seasons prior to the study. Simulated drainage water was loaded into the mesocosms over eighteen batch studies across seasons with target nitrate-N levels between 2.5 to 10 mg L−1. Grab samples were collected from the water column and analyzed for nitrate-N, dissolved organic carbon, and chloride, along with other environmental parameters such as pH, water temperature, and soil redox. Seasonally, nitrogen and carbon within the wetland plants and soil were also measured. Multivariate statistical analyses were utilized to determine differences in nitrate-N reductions between treatments. Variables included carbon availability, temperature, antecedent moisture condition, nitrogen loading, and water pH. Contrary to the hypothesis that higher nitrate-N removal rates would be observed in the wetlands with higher organic matter, overall removal rates were higher in the wetland mesocosms containing Deloss soils (WET-Min) (maximum of 726 mg m−2 d−1) than those containing Scuppernong soil (WET-Org) (maximum of 496 mg m−2 d−1) and were dependent on daily NO3-N concentrations and season. Significant differences in NO3-N removal were found between seasons and soil types (α = 0.05), which helped to provide insight to the expected magnitude of nitrogen removal within these systems throughout the year, and potential mechanisms (i.e. denitrification vs. plant uptake) that will govern these removals.