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Shifts in dissolved organic matter and microbial community composition are associated with enhanced removal of fecal pollutants in urban stormwater wetlands


Constructed stormwater wetlands provide a host of ecosystem services, including potentially pathogen removal. We present results from a multi-wetland study that integrates across weather, chemical, microbiological and engineering design variables in order to identify patterns of microbial contaminant removal from inlet to outlet within wetlands and key drivers of those patterns. One or more microbial contaminants were detected at the inlet of each stormwater wetland (Escherichia coli and Enterococcus > Bacteroides HF183 > adenovirus). Bacteroides HF183 and adenovirus concentrations declined from inlet to outlet at all wetlands. However, co-removal of pathogens and fecal indicator bacteria only occurred at wetlands where microbial assemblages at the inlet (dominated by Proteobacteria and Bacteriodetes) were largely displaced by indigenous autotrophic microbial communities at the outlet (dominated by Cyanobacteria). Microbial community transitions (characterized using pyrosequencing) were well approximated by a combination of two rapid indicators: (1) fluorescent dissolved organic matter, and (2) chlorophyll a or phaeophytin a fluorescence. Within-wetland treatment of fecal markers and indicators was not strongly correlated with the catchment-to-wetland area ratio, but was diminished in older wetlands, which may point to a need for more frequent maintenance.

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