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Temperature Effects in Treatment Wetlands

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Several biogeochemical processes that regulate the removal of nutrients in wetlands are affected by temperature, thus influencing the overall treatment efficiency. In this paper, the effects of temperature on carbon, nitrogen, and phosphorus cycling processes in treatment wetlands and their implications to water quality are discussed. Many environmental factors display annual cycles that mediate whole system performance. Water temperature is one of the important cyclic stimuli, but inlet flow rates and concentrations, and several features of the annual biogeochemical cycle, also can contribute to the observed patterns of nutrient and pollutant removal. Atmospheric influences, including rain, evapotranspiration, and water reaeration, also follow seasonal patterns. Processes regulating storages in wetlands are active throughout the year and can act as seasonal reservoirs of nutrients, carbon, and pollutants.

Many individual wetland processes, such as microbially mediated reactions, are affected by temperature. Response was much greater to changes at the lower end of the temperature scale (< 15 °C) than at the optimal range (20 to 35 °C). Processes regulating organic matter decomposition are affected by temperature. Similarly, all nitrogen cycling reactions (mineralization, nitrification, and denitrification) are affected by temperature. The temperature coefficient () varied from 1.05 to 1.37 for carbon and nitrogen cycling processes during isolated conditions. Phosphorus sorption reactions are least affected by temperature, with  values of 1.03 to 1.12. Physical processes involved in the removal of particulate carbon, nitrogen, and phosphorus are not affected much by temperature.

In contrast, observed wetland removals may have different temperature dependence. Design models are over simplified because of limitations of data for calibration. The result of complex system behavior and the simple model is the need to interpret whole ecosystem data to determine temperature coefficients. Temperature seems to have minimal effect on biochemical oxygen demand (0.900 <  < 1.015) and phosphorus (0.995 <  < 1.020) removal, and more significant effect on nitrogen removal (0.988 <  < 1.16). In colder climates, there may be seasonal slowdown of treatment, which can decrease the overall treatment efficiency of constructed wetlands.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2001-09-01

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    Water Environment Research (WER) publishes peer-reviewed research papers, research notes, state-of-the-art and critical reviews on original, fundamental and applied research in all scientific and technical areas related to water quality, pollution control, and management. An annual Literature Review provides a review of published books and articles on water quality topics from the previous year.

    Published as: Sewage Works Journal, 1928 - 1949; Sewage and Industrial Wastes, 1950 - 1959; Journal Water Pollution Control Federation, 1959 - Oct 1989; Research Journal Water Pollution Control Federation, Nov 1989 - 1991; Water Environment Research, 1992 - present.
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