Friday, 1 May 2015

Nitrogen and Phosphorus Removal - Prof. Mitsch Lecture

On Day 7 of our Florida wetlands trip we had the great honor of receiving a lecture of Prof. William J. Mitsch. As I mentioned in my Day 4 post the authority on wetlands and author of the wetlands textbook now in its 5th edition.

The Lecture

The title of his lecture ‘Using wetlands to prevent phosphorus and nitrogen pollution in downstream wetlands,lakes,rivers and coastal wetlands’ and he drew on some of his most recent projects to explain the problems and the potential of wetlands in this area.

MSc Group Photo with Prof. William Mitsch (Center),
 Dr Christian Dunn (to his right)and Prof. Chris Freeman (Far left)
He started with the problem of nitrogen pollution in the ‘MOM’ (Mississippi-Ohio-Missouri) basis and its severe consequences on the gulf of mexico. The Gulf of mexico in recent decades has been facing an increasingly larger crisis in the form of hypoxia (low oxygen levels) driven by the large increase in nutrient inputs from the MOM basin.

In his paper: ‘Restoration of wetlands in the Mississippi–Ohio–Missouri (MOM) River Basin: Experience and needed research' - 2006 he outlines the causes of this mainly through the conversion of wetlands in the MOM basin to agricultural land which then suffers from fertilizer run off.

He also recommends the mind boggling figure of 2.2 million hectares of treatment wetland that would need to be created in order to treat the problem.

2.2 MILLION hectares.

He then moved onto some more recent research conducted by himself and other members of the Everglades wetland research park (which we visited on Day 5)

This research focuses on the removal of phosphorus from waste water which tackles the increasing problem of phosphorus pollution in the highly oligotrophic everglades (again mostly due to agriculture and urban runoff). Us policy dictates a target of 10 part per billion phosphorus in any water that enters the everglades system in order to protect the characteristic sawgrass (Cladium jamaicense) from being out competed by other species.

This is a target that has rarely been reached but in this research examining the removal of phosphorus from different treatment wetland plant communities it was briefly achieved. the results of this research are published in this paper : ’Protecting the Florida Everglades wetlands with wetlands: Can stormwater phosphorus be reduced to oligotrophic conditions? ‘ - 2015.

My Thoughts

This was a truly fascinating lecture which not only highlight the importance of wetland in the natural ecosystem but also their usefulness to its restoration.

Some of the figures that were mentioned are almost incomprehensible to think about however i look forward to watching the research Prof. Mitsch and his team are doing develop and to hopefully see its future application.

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