Assessing nitrogen and phosphorus removal potential of five plant species in floating treatment wetlands receiving simulated nursery runoff

  • Jonathan T. Spangler
  • David J. SampleEmail author
  • Laurie J. Fox
  • Joseph P. Albano
  • Sarah A. White
Research Article


The feasibility of using floating treatment wetlands (FTWs) to treat runoff typical of commercial nurseries was investigated using two 8-week trials with replicated mesocosms. Plants were supported by Beemat rafts. Five monoculture treatments of Agrostis alba (red top), Canna × generalis ‘Firebird’ (canna lily), Carex stricta (tussock sedge), Iris ensata ‘Rising Sun’ (Japanese water iris), Panicum virgatum (switchgrass), two mixed species treatments, and an unplanted control were assessed. These plant species are used for ornamental, wetland, and biofuel purposes. Nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P) removals were evaluated after a 7-day hydraulic retention time (HRT). N removal (sum of ammonium-N, nitrate-N, and nitrite-N) from FTW treatments ranged from 0.255 to 0.738 g·m−2·d−1 (38.9 to 82.4% removal) and 0.147 to 0.656 g·m−2·d−1 (12.9 to 59.6% removal) for trials 1 and 2, respectively. P removal (phosphate-P) ranged from 0.052 to 0.128 g·m−2·d−1 (26.1 to 64.7% removal) for trial 1, and 0.074 to 0.194 g·m−2·d−1 (26.8 to 63.2% removal) for trial 2. Panicum virgatum removed more N and P than any other FTW treatment and the control in both trials. Results show that species selection and timing of FTW harvest impact the rate and mass of nutrient remediation. FTWs can effectively remove N and P from runoff from commercial nurseries.


Biofuel Nitrogen removal Phosphorus removal Biofilm 



The authors appreciate the additional field support provided by Jeanette Lynch and the lab support provided by Jim Owen, Julie Brindley, Anna Birnbaum, Dil Thavarajah, Brian Schulker, and Chris Lasser.

Funding information

Funding for this work was provided in part by the Virginia Agricultural Experiment Station, the South Carolina Agricultural Experiment Station, and the Hatch Program of the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, including the Specialty Crop Research Initiative Project Clean WateR3 (2014-51181-22372), provided by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Additional support was provided by the Virginia Water Resources Research Center, the William R. Walker graduate fellowship award, the USDA Floral and Nursery Research Initiative (FNRI), and the Horticultural Research Institute (HRI).


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Hampton Roads Agricultural Research and Extension CenterVirginia Polytechnic Institute and State UniversityVirginia BeachUSA
  2. 2.U. S. Horticultural Research Laboratory, U. S. Department of Agriculture-Agricultural Research ServiceFort PierceUSA
  3. 3.Department of Plant and Environmental SciencesClemson UniversityClemsonUSA

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