Constructed wetlands (CWs) are used to remediate runoff from a variety of agricultural, industrial, and urban sources. CW remediation performance is often evaluated at the laboratory scale over durations less than one year. The purpose of this study was to characterize the effect of CW design (cell depth) and residence time on nitrogen (N) speciation and fate across season and years in two free water surface wetlands receiving runoff from irrigated plant production areas at an ornamental plant nursery. Water quality (mg·L−1
of nitrate, nitrite, and ammonium, dissolved oxygen and oxidation reduction potential) was monitored at five sites within each of two CWs each month over four years. Nitrate-N was the dominant form of ionic N present in both CWs. Within CW1, a deep cell to shallow cell design, nitrate comprised 86% of ionic N in effluent. Within CW2, designed with three sequential deep cells, nitrate comprised only 66% of total N and ammonium comprised 27% of total N in CW2 effluent. Differences in ionic N removal efficacies and shifts in N speciation in CW1 and CW2 were controlled by constructed wetland design (depth and hydraulic retention time), the concentration of nutrients entering the CW, and plant species richness.
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