IWA Publishing

The role of constructed wetlands for biomass production within the water-soil-waste nexus

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Courtesy of IWA Publishing

The use of constructed wetlands for water pollution control has a long standing tradition in urban, peri-urban, rural, agricultural and mining environments. The capacity of wetland plants to take up nutrients and to filter organic matter has been widely discussed and presented in diverse fora and published in hundreds of articles. In an ever increasingly complex global world, constructed wetlands not only play a role in providing safe sanitation in decentralized settings, shelter for biodiversity, and cleansing of polluted sites, in addition, they produce biomass that can be harvested and used for the production of fodder and fuel. The United Nations University Institute for Integrated Management of Material Fluxes and of Resources (UNU-FLORES) was established in December 2012 in Dresden, Germany, to assess the trade-offs between and among resources when making sustainable decisions. Against the backdrop of the Water-Energy-Food Nexus, which was introduced as a critical element for the discussions on sustainability at Rio +20, the UNU was mandated to pay critical attention to the interconnections of the underlying resources, namely, water, soil and waste. Biomass for human consumption comes in the form of food for direct use, as fodder for livestock, and as semi-woody biomass for fuelling purposes, be it directly for heating and cooking or for the production of biogas and/or biofuel. Given the universal applicability of constructed wetlands in virtually all settings, from arid to tropical, from relatively high to low nutrient loads, and from a vast variety of pollutants, we postulate that the biomass produced in constructed wetlands can be used more extensively in order to enhance the multi-purpose use of these sites.

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