Nitrogen removal and greenhouse gas emissions from constructed wetlands receiving tile drainage water

Tyler A. Groh, Lowell E. Gentry, Mark B. David

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56 Scopus citations


Loss of nitrate from agricultural lands to surface waters is an important issue, especially in areas that are extensively tile drained. To reduce these losses, a wide range of in-field and edgeof- field practices have been proposed, including constructed wetlands. We re-evaluated constructed wetlands established in 1994 that were previously studied for their effectiveness in removing nitrate from tile drainage water. Along with this reevaluation, we measured the production and flux of greenhouse gases (GHGs) (CO2, N2O, and CH4). The tile inlets and outlets of two wetlands were monitored for flow and N during the 2012 and 2013 water years. In addition, seepage rates of water and nitrate under the berm and through the riparian buffer strip were measured. Greenhouse gas emissions from the wetlands were measured using floating chambers (inundated fluxes) or static chambers (terrestrial fluxes). During this 2-yr study, the wetlands removed 56% of the total inlet nitrate load, likely through denitrification in the wetland. Some additional removal of nitrate occurred in seepage water by the riparian buffer strip along each berm (6.1% of the total inlet load, for a total nitrate removal of 62%). The dominant GHG emitted from the wetlands was CO2, which represented 75 and 96% of the total GHG emissions during the two water years. The flux of N2O contributed between 3.7 and 13% of the total cumulative GHG flux. Emissions of N2O were 3.2 and 1.3% of the total nitrate removed from wetlands A and B, respectively. These wetlands continue to remove nitrate at rates similar to those measured after construction, with relatively little GHG gas loss.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1001-1010
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Environmental Quality
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2015

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Environmental Engineering
  • Water Science and Technology
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Pollution
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law


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