Phosphorus Removal in Denitrifying Woodchip Bioreactors Varies by Wood Type and Water Chemistry

Ana Paula Sanchez Bustamante-Bailon, Andrew Margenot, Richard A.C. Cooke, Laura E. Christianson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Denitrifying woodchip bioreactors are a practical nitrogen (N) mitigation technology but evaluating the potential for bioreactor phosphorus (P) removal is highly relevant given that (1) agricultural runoff often contains N and P, (2) very low P concentrations cause eutrophication, and (3) there are few options for removing dissolved P once it is in runoff. A series of batch tests evaluated P removal by woodchips that naturally contained a range of metals known to sorb P and then three design and environmental factors (water matrix, particle size, initial dissolved reactive phosphorus (DRP) concentration). Woodchips with the highest aluminum and iron content provided the most dissolved P removal (13±2.5 mg DRP removed/kg woodchip). However, poplar woodchips, which had low metals content, provided the second highest removal (12±0.4 mg/kg) when they were tested with P-dosed river water which had a relatively complex water matrix. Chemical P sorption due to woodchip elements may be possible, but it is likely one of a variety of P removal mechanisms in real-world bioreactor settings. Scaling the results indicated bioreactors could remove 0.40 to 13 g DRP/ha. Woodchip bioreactor dissolved P removal will likely be small in magnitude, but any such contribution is an added-value benefit of this denitrifying technology.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)6733-6743
Number of pages11
JournalEnvironmental Science and Pollution Research
Issue number5
StatePublished - Jan 2022


  • Batch test
  • Dissolved phosphorus
  • Oak
  • Poplar
  • Precipitation
  • Sorption

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Pollution
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


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