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The Potential of Myrtaceae Species for the Phytomanagement of Treated Municipal Wastewater

Abstract

The use of native plants in land application systems for treated municipal wastewater (TMW) can contribute to ecological restoration. However, research on the potential of native species to manage the nutrients and contaminants contained in TMW is scarce. At a 10-hectare field site irrigated with TMW at >4000 mm yr(-1), we investigated the distribution of nutrients and trace elements in the soil-plant system, comparing the New Zealand native Myrtaceae species Leptosperum scoparium and Kunzea robusta with pasture. The results showed that plant growth did not correlate with TMW irrigation rates. L. scoparium and K. robusta had higher foliar trace element concentrations than pasture, but these were not correlated with TMW irrigation rates. The pasture accumulated more N and P (68 kg of N ha(-1) yr(-1) and 11 kg of P ha(-1) yr(-1)) than the Myrtaceae species (0.6-17 kg of N ha(-1) yr(-1) and 0.06-1.8 kg of P ha(-1) yr(-1)). Regular harvesting of the pasture would likely remove more N and P from the site than the Myrtaceae species. The results highlight the importance of adjusting TMW application rates to the soil-plant capacity, in which case, native plants could provide ecological or economic value to TMW-irrigated land.

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