Nutrient and heavy metal uptake and storage in constructed wetland systems in Arizona

M. M. Karpiscak, L. R. Whiteaker, J. F. Artiola, K. E. Foster

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

33 Scopus citations


The Constructed Ecosystems Research Facility (CERF) was conceived in the early 1980s as a test facility to explore the potential for using plants to treat wastewater in the arid west of the USA. One of the major issues that has been identified in the use of constructed wetland technology is plant nutrient uptake and tissue storage of nutrients as well as heavy metals. Our approach to understanding plant uptake and storage has been to look at both controlled conditions in constructed systems and background concentrations in natural systems. Plant tissues have been collected and analyzed from natural systems and from controlled systems receiving either wastewater or municipal water. Plants studied included the herbaceous species Anemopsis californica (Yerba mansa), Scirpus spp. (bulrush) and Typha domingensis (cattail), and tree species Fraxinus velutina (ash), Populus fremontii (cottonwood) and Salix spp. (willow). Data indicate that uptake varies not only among plant species, but also among chemical species, depending upon water quality within the wetlands. Leaf tissues of Fraxinus, Salix and Populus, contained the lowest amounts of nutrients and heavy metals studied (Na, P, K, Cu, Pb and Zn), while the root tissues of the herbaceous plants generally had the highest concentrations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)455-462
Number of pages8
JournalWater Science and Technology
Issue number11-12
StatePublished - 2001


  • Constructed wetlands
  • Heavy metals
  • Natural wetlands
  • Nutrients
  • Plant uptake
  • Wastewater

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Engineering
  • Water Science and Technology


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