Efficiency of phenol biodegradation by planktonic Pseudomonas pseudoalcaligenes (a constructed wetland isolate) vs. root and gravel biofilm

Eyal Kurzbaum, Felix Kirzhner, Shlomo Sela, Yoram Zimmels, Robert Armon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In the last two decades, constructed wetland systems gained increasing interest in wastewater treatment and as such have been intensively studied around the world. While most of the studies showed excellent removal of various pollutants, the exact contribution, in kinetic terms, of its particular components (such as: root, gravel and water) combined with bacteria is almost nonexistent.In the present study, a phenol degrader bacterium identified as Pseudomonas pseudoalcaligenes was isolated from a constructed wetland, and used in an experimental set-up containing: plants and gravel. Phenol removal rate by planktonic and biofilm bacteria (on sterile Zea mays roots and gravel surfaces) was studied. Specific phenol removal rates revealed significant advantage of planktonic cells (1.04 × 10-9 mg phenol/CFU/h) compared to root and gravel biofilms: 4.59 × 10-11-2.04 × 10-10 and 8.04 × 10-11-4.39 × 10-10 (mg phenol/CFU/h), respectively.In batch cultures, phenol biodegradation kinetic parameters were determined by biomass growth rates and phenol removal as a function of time. Based on Haldane equation, kinetic constants such as μmax = 1.15/h, Ks = 35.4 mg/L and Ki = 198.6 mg/L fit well phenol removal by P. pseudoalcaligenes.Although P. pseudoalcaligenes planktonic cells showed the highest phenol removal rate, in constructed wetland systems and especially in those with sub-surface flow, it is expected that surface associated microorganisms (biofilms) will provide a much higher contribution in phenol and other organics removal, due to greater bacterial biomass.Factors affecting the performance of planktonic vs. biofilm bacteria in sub-surface flow constructed wetlands are further discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)5021-5031
Number of pages11
JournalWater Research
Issue number17
StatePublished - Sep 2010
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research was partially supported by the Faculty of Civil and Environmental Engineering and Grand Water Research Institute at Technion. The authors would like to thank to Dr. S. Avrahami for her helpful advice during construction of the phylogenetic tree and to Lora Parahovnik for her laboratory assistance (Technion-Israel Institute of Technology). Nidal Masalha (The Galilee Society, Israel) is acknowledged for his help in kinetics evaluation.


  • Biodegradation
  • Biofilm
  • Phenol
  • Pseudomonas pseudoalcaligenes
  • Rhizosphere

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Water Science and Technology
  • Ecological Modeling
  • Pollution
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Environmental Engineering
  • Civil and Structural Engineering


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