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artificial floating wetland; nitrate; phosphate; Chicago River; heavy metals


Ever expanding urbanized landscapes are increasingly impacting streams that run through them. Among other stressors, urban streams often are host to elevated concentrations of nutrients, salts, and heavy metals. The pollutants, coupled with high temperatures, are drivers of ecosystem degradation in urban streams. The installation of artificial floating wetlands (AFWs) has been successful in mitigating the effects of urbanization in lakes and wastewater treatment ponds, but rarely have they been tested in streams. This pilot-study examined the ability of an AFW to improve water quality in an urban stream. The small, 90 m2 AFW was installed to improve the aquatic habitat and aesthetics of a small section of the Chicago River, Chicago, IL USA.Water samples and in-situ measurements were collected from the surface and at 0.3 m depth of upstream and downstream of the AFW. Samples were analyzed for nitrate-as-nitrogen, phosphate, chloride, and heavy metals. Comparison of upstream and downstream waters showed that the AFW lowered the concentrations of nitrate-as-nitrogen and phosphate during the growing season by 6.9% and 6.0%, respectively. Nitrate was also removed during the dormant season; however, phosphate was not removed during that time. Plant or microbial uptake of the nutrients are believed to be the dominant mechanisms in the growing season with denitrification serving as the primary pathway in the dormant season. Despite not having a measurable effect on the water temperature, the AFW was an effective means to reduce concentrations of nitrate and phosphorus, decreasing the potential for eutrophication.



This article is an open access article distributed under the terms and conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) license (

This article was published in Hydrology 2021, 8, 115.

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