Environmental Science and Pollution Research

, Volume 26, Issue 10, pp 10354–10362 | Cite as

Effect of earthworms and plants on the efficiency of vertical flow systems treating university wastewater

  • Stevo LavrnićEmail author
  • Sandra Cristino
  • Maribel Zapater-Pereyra
  • Jan Vymazal
  • Domenico Cupido
  • Giovanni Lucchese
  • Benedetta Mancini
  • Maurizio L. Mancini
Research Article


One of the possible ways to improve the operation efficiency of constructed wetlands and to prevent their clogging is the application of earthworms. They have already been successfully applied for vermicomposting and for sludge dewatering and treatment. A few studies have already examined the effect of earthworms on the treatment of wastewater by vertical flow constructed wetlands (VFCWs), but none of them have provided a yearlong research result from an open-air system or compared the effect that different seasons in a temperate climate area can have on these invertebrates. The goal of this research was to estimate the effect that earthworms and plants have on VFCW’s operation. Four mesocosms (a filter, a filter with earthworms, a VFCW and a VFCW with earthworms) were built and their influent and effluent water quality was monitored for a period of 1 year. They were fed with wastewater coming from a building of the University of Bologna (Italy). The results have shown that the presence of earthworms in this specific system did not reduce the organic matter content of the substrate, but it has positively influenced plants’ growth. However, since neither earthworms nor plants had a statistically significant effect on the effluent quality, it can be concluded that the integration of these invertebrates cannot improve wastewater treatment of vertical flow filters or constructed wetlands.


Constructed wetlands Earthworms Filters Plants Seasonal effect Wastewater treatment 



The first author’s PhD scholarship was financed by the European Commission through Erasmus Mundus PhD in Marine and Coastal Management programme. The authors would like to thank Prof. Elena Fabbri from the University of Bologna for her help during the development of this project, and Dr. Marco Maglionico and Dr. Sara Simona Cipolla from CIRI (University of Bologna) for their contribution to the research.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Supplementary material

11356_2019_4508_MOESM1_ESM.docx (15 kb)
ESM 1 (DOCX 14 kb)


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Copyright information

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

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Campus de Puerto RealUniversity of CádizCádizSpain
  2. 2.Dipartimento di Ingegneria Civile, Chimica, Ambientale e dei MaterialiUniversity of BolognaBolognaItaly
  3. 3.Dipartimento di Scienze Biologiche, Geologiche e AmbientaliUniversity of BolognaBolognaItaly
  4. 4.Independent researcherMunichGermany
  5. 5.Faculty of Environmental SciencesCzech University of Life Sciences PraguePraha 6Czech Republic

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