Vorlesungsreihe "Wissenschaft am UFZ" / Lecture Series "Research at the UFZ"
Treatment of contaminated water by constructed wetlands: an old technology revisited
Dr. Hermann J. Heipieper
UFZ, Department Umweltbiotechnologie / Environmental Biotechnology
16. Oktober 2012, 15:00 h, Leipziger KUBUS
Constructed wetlands are a natural alternative to technical methods of wastewater treatment. However, our understanding of the complex processes caused by the emergent water plants (helophytes), microorganisms, soil matrix and substances in the wastewater, and how they all interact with each other, is still rather incomplete. Next to their ability to assimilate carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, helophytes also provide their roots with oxygen and organic compounds, the so called root exudates. This creates a complex compartment of high microbiological diversity and activity, the rhizosphere. This phenomenon was already used in the 19th century for treating sewage and the detoxification of wastewater and sludge. This "phytotechnology" is becoming increasingly attractive for both economic and ecological reasons. The processes offer a broad, interesting field for science and research. Therefore, it is necessary to understand and control the mechanisms of both the helophytes in constructed wetlands and the microorganisms in the root zone which come into play when they remove contaminants from wastewater. The supply of oxygen plays a crucial role in the activity and type of metabolism performed by microorganisms in the root zone. The underlying philosophy of phytoremediation research at the UFZ is to exploit and to optimise the processes in the rhizosphere. Low-cost, simple systems are being developed to control the environmental problems of different countries on several continents irrespective of their industrial capabilities and conditions – without losing sight of the key principle of cleaning up polluted environmental media in a natural, ecologically balanced way. This entails scientific basic investigations into the turnover processes and field trials in order to overcome practical constraints. Basic research on laboratory scale reactors in the phytotechnicum of the UFZ are used to investigate the complex biological and physicochemical interactions inside the rhizosphere.
(Hermann J. Heipieper, Arndt Wießner, Paula M. Martínez-Lavanchy, Uwe Kappelmeyer, Jochen A. Müller, Matthias Kästner, Peter Kuschk)
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