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Aquatic plants contribute to clean waters, scientists confirm

Bioengineering techniques and plants contribute to clean waters, as scientific research developed in the Urban River Lab has demonstrated. The Urban River Lab (URL) focuses on improving management of highly modified rivers, whose waters come mainly from treatment plants.

Scientists in the Urban Rivel Lab (URL)The research developed in the URL since its creation, in 2015, show that the riparian plants “capture a big part of the nutrients in the effluent from the wastewater treatment plant, as the plants need the nutrients to live and grow”.
It was explained by Miquel Ribot, CSIC scientist at the Centre d’Estudis Avançats de Blanes (CEAB-CSIC) and Naturalea, in a meeting for professionals, which took place in the Consorci Besòs Tordera.

As a result, Ribot said, “plants reduce the amount of nitrogen and carbon in water, therefore improving the quality of water”. This is important in the rivers of Besos basin and, actually, in all Mediterranean basins, where water in rivers come mostly from treatment plants. Although all the vegetal species studied in the URL give good results in the reduction of nitrogen and carbon, scientists highlight that cane (Phragmites) is one of the best, eliminating up to 40% of the nitrogen in the water.

Esperanza Gacia, scientist of the CEAB-CSIC, explained that every part of a plant has a different and specific behavior eliminating nutrients. “This helps us to know every specie and how to use the different species in fluvial restorations”.

Cane (Phragmites) is one of the best, eliminating up to 40% of the nitrogen in the water  

Scientists Jen Drummond and Xavier Triadó, also from the CEAB-CSIC, explained the effects of these riparian plants on the water retention an on microbial communities.

It also was showed the restoration done in the Canoves stream, in the frame of the project Restaurio, aimed at testing in real conditions the results of research in the URL. Marta Tobella, young scientists and doctoral candidate in the Barcelona University,  explained about this project that they have already “positive markers that show the role of bioengineering techniques and helophytes improving the quality of water that comes from de wastewater treatment station”.

Albert Sorolla, from Naturalea company, explain some restoration examples using vegetal species to create contention walls or channels for water. “It is a non invasive technique that helps the river for a natural recovery”, said Sorolla.

URL is an experimental outdoor lab located at the Montornes wastewater treatment plant. It is a pioneering lab in the field of river ecosystem research in Spain and it contributes to the development of alternative strategies and innovative techniques for improving the management of modified rivers.

The meeting has been organized by the members of the Urban River Lab: the Centre d'Estudis Avançats de Blanes (CEAB) of the CSIC, the Barcelona University (UB); the company Naturalea Conservació SL, the Consortium for the Defence of the Besòs River Basin, and the Montornés del Vallès City Council.

 Urban River Lab (URL)