Root Stimulated Nitrogen Removal: Only A Local Effect Or Important For Water Treatment?
Plants in constructed wetlands serve as carriers for attached microbial growth. They mainly transfer oxygen and release exsudates to the root zone. In consequence of this an area around the roots, called the rhizosphere exists, in which bacteria are stimulated by root growth. The goals were to ascertain whether stimulating the microbial cenosis only has a local effect on the rhizoplane, and to establish the importance of this stimulation for the water purification process in the root zone. Observations were carried out in a laboratory batch reactor filled with sand and planted with reeds (Phragmites australis). A small section was separated with gauze to avoid root growth outside this zone. The reactor was incubated with an artificial waste water containing a high concentration of ammonium. Samples were taken at intervals of 10 mm away from the gauze. The chemical and physical conditions and enzyme activities in soil sections at different distances from the roots affecting the efficiency of nitrogen removal were characterized. An influence was detectable by several parameters up to a specific root distance. Indirect parameters such as the total bacterial number and the DNA amount seem to be affected up to a distance of 50 mm from the root whereas the oxygen amount and DOC are unaffected at a distance exceeding 20–30 mm. This is an initial indication that improved nitrogen removal is also possible in the wider root surroundings. In view of the average root-to-root distance of 35 mm, the root-influenced area could therefore be expanded to the whole rooted zone in a constructed wetland. The influence on bacteria by roots is not just a local effect but may also play an important role in the whole purification process.