Civil and Environmental Engineering


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Russell, M.V.; Messer, T.L.; Repert, D.A.; Smith, R.L.; Bartelt-Hunt, S.; Snow, D.D.; Reed, A.P. Influence of Four Veterinary Antibiotics on Constructed Treatment Wetland Nitrogen Transformation. Toxics 2024, 12, 346. https://


Open access.


The use of wetlands as a treatment approach for nitrogen in runoff is a common practice in agroecosystems. However, nitrate is not the sole constituent present in agricultural runoff and other biologically active contaminants have the potential to affect nitrate removal efficiency. In this study, the impacts of the combined effects of four common veterinary antibiotics (chlortetracycline, sulfamethazine, lincomycin, monensin) on nitrate-N treatment efficiency in saturated sediments and wetlands were evaluated in a coupled microcosm/mesocosm scale experiment. Veterinary antibiotics were hypothesized to significantly impact nitrogen speciation (e.g., nitrate and ammonium) and nitrogen uptake and transformation processes (e.g., plant uptake and denitrification) within the wetland ecosystems. To test this hypothesis, the coupled study had three objectives: 1. assess veterinary antibiotic impact on nitrogen cycle processes in wetland sediments using microcosm incubations, 2. measure nitrate-N reduction in water of floating treatment wetland systems over time following the introduction of veterinary antibiotic residues, and 3. identify the fate of veterinary antibiotics in floating treatment wetlands using mesocosms. Microcosms containing added mixtures of the veterinary antibiotics had little to no effect at lower concentrations but stimulated denitrification potential rates at higher concentrations. Based on observed changes in the nitrogen loss in the microcosm experiments, floating treatment wetland mesocosms were enriched with 1000 μg L−1 of the antibiotic mixture. Rates of nitrate-N loss observed in mesocosms with the veterinary antibiotic enrichment were consistent with the microcosm experiments in that denitrification was not inhibited, even at the high dosage. In the mesocosm experiments, average nitrate-N removal rates were not found to be impacted by the veterinary antibiotics. Further, veterinary antibiotics were primarily found in the roots of the floating treatment wetland biomass, accumulating approximately 190 mg m−2 of the antibiotic mixture. These findings provide new insight into the impact that veterinary antibiotic mixtures may have on nutrient management strategies for large-scale agricultural operations and the potential for veterinary antibiotic removal in these wetlands