Plants cannot synthesize essential elements required for their development, such as nitrogen and phosphorus, therefore they need to acquire them via roots. Vascular plants rooted in streambed and river banks (i.e., helophytes) can significantly influence the water chemistry during nutrient acquisition. Therefore, helophytes can play an important role as filters of nutrients in enriched environments such as streams and rivers receiving an effluent of a wastewater treatment plant. To understand the capacity of helophytes to retain dissolved nutrients a reliable characterization of above- (i.e., leaves and stems) and belowground biomass (i.e., roots) is critical. Quantification of these biomasses in conjunction to a measure of their nitrogen and phosphorus content, allow us to assess a mass balance between nutrients that enter into the system and those that leave it.
To address this question, we will measure above- and belowground biomass of 3 different species of helophytes, commonly used in stream and river restoration: Iris pseudachorus, Phragmites australis and Scirpus lacustris. We will measure variables such as fresh and dry mass and surface area and volume of leaves and roots. In addition we will estimate some allometric relationships between above- and belowground biomass variables to carry out accurate estimations of below-ground biomass using nondestructive sampling methods.
Leading scientist: Roberta Calvo, PhD researcher at the University of Palermo (Italy).