Establishment and potential use of woody species in treatment wetlands

Plant species selection is an important criterion for improving treatment wetland performance. The aim of this work was to evaluate removal efficiency and potential uses of woody species in treatment wetlands during the establishment year. Plant development, removal efficiency and evapotranspiration rate of five woody species (Salix interior, Salix miyabeana, Sambucus canadensis, Myrica gale, Acer saccharinum) and four herbaceous taxa typically used in treatment wetlands (Typha angustifolia, Phragmites australis australis, Phragmites australis americanus, Phalaris arundinacea) were compared in a mesocosm-scale study during one growing season. Woody species showed significantly slower growth, but displayed several characteristics of interest for treatment wetland applications: good adaptation to wetlands conditions; high organic matter removal (76–88%); high nutrient accumulation in tissues and high evapotranspiration capacity. During the establishment year, herbaceous species showed greater biomass development (above- and belowground parts), higher evapotranspiration rate (>3.84 L m−2 d−1 compared to <3.23 L m−2 d−1 for woody species) and overall pollutant removal efficiency. These characteristics confirm the high efficiency of treatment wetlands planted with herbaceous species even in the first growing season. However, given their greater potential biomass development, woody species could represent an excellent alternative for improving treatment wetlands long-term performance.