Characterisation of microbial biocoenosis in vertical subsurface flow constructed wetlands

Alexandra Tietz*, Alexander Kirschner, Günter Langergraber, Kirsten Sleytr, Raimund Haberl

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Journal article (peer-reviewed)Journal article

93 Citations (Scopus)


In this study a quantitative description of the microbial biocoenosis in subsurface vertical flow constructed wetlands fed with municipal wastewater was carried out. Three different methods (substrate induced respiration, ATP measurement and fumigation-extraction) were applied to measure the microbial biomass at different depths of planted and unplanted systems. Additionally, bacterial biomass was determined by epifluorescence microscopy and productivity was measured via 14C leucine incorporation into bacterial biomass. All methods showed that > 50% of microbial biomass and bacterial activity could be found in the first cm and about 95% in the first 10 cm of the filter layer. Bacterial biomass in the first 10 cm of the filter body accounted only for 16-19% of the total microbial biomass. Whether fungi or methodical uncertainties are mainly responsible for the difference between microbial and bacterial biomass remains to be examined. A comparison between the purification performance of planted and unplanted pilot-scale subsurface vertical flow constructed wetlands (PSCWs) showed no significant difference with the exception of the reduction of enterococci. The microbial biomass in all depths of the filter body was also not different in planted and unplanted systems. Compared with data from soils the microbial biomass in the PSCWs was high, although the specific surface area of the used sandy filter material available for biofilm growth was lower, especially in the beginning of the set-up of the PSCWs, due to missing clay and silt fraction.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)163-172
Number of pages10
JournalScience of the Total Environment
Issue number1-3
Publication statusPublished - 15 Jul 2007
Externally publishedYes


  • Bacterial production
  • Microbial biomass
  • Subsurface vertical flow constructed wetlands

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Engineering
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Pollution


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