Understanding microbe communities could improve wetland wastewater treatment systems
COLUMBIA, Mo. – Wetlands serve as the Earth’s kidneys. They filter and clean people’s water supplies while serving as important habitat for many species, including iconic species like cattails, cranes and alligators. Conventional ecosystem health assessments have focused on populations of these larger species. However, the tiny, unseen creatures in the wetlands provided crucial indicators of the ecosystems’ health in a study by University of Missouri Associate Professor of Engineering Zhiqiang Hu and his team. Using analysis of the microbiological health of wetlands is cheaper and faster than traditional assessments, and could lead to improvements in harnessing natural processes to filter humans’ wastewater.
“During road and building construction, engineers must sacrifice wetlands to development, but laws dictate that these lost wetlands be compensated for by establishing a wetland somewhere else,” said Hu. “Our research could be applied to both monitor the success of these compensation wetlands and guide conservationists in inoculating new engineered ecosystems with the correct types of microorganisms.” (more…)