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Appl Environ Microbiol. 2008 Jan;74(1):286-93. Epub 2007 Nov 2.

Quantifying community dynamics of nitrifiers in functionally stable reactors.

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  • 1Laboratory of Microbial Ecology and Technology (LabMET), Ghent University, Coupure Links 653, B-9000 Gent, Belgium.


A sequential batch reactor (SBR) and a membrane bioreactor (MBR) were inoculated with the same sludge from a municipal wastewater treatment plant, supplemented with ammonium, and operated in parallel for 84 days. It was investigated whether the functional stability of the nitrification process corresponded with a static ammonia-oxidizing bacterial (AOB) community. The SBR provided complete nitrification during nearly the whole experimental run, whereas the MBR showed a buildup of 0 to 2 mg nitrite-N liter(-1) from day 45 until day 84. Based on the denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis profiles, two novel approaches were introduced to characterize and quantify the community dynamics and interspecies abundance ratios: (i) the rate of change [Delta(t)((week))] parameter and (ii) the Pareto-Lorenz curve distribution pattern. During the whole sampling period, it was observed that neither of the reactor types maintained a static microbial community and that the SBR evolved more gradually than the MBR, particularly with respect to AOB (i.e., average weekly community changes of 12.6% +/- 5.2% for the SBR and 24.6% +/- 14.3% for the MBR). Based on the Pareto-Lorenz curves, it was observed that only a small group of AOB species played a numerically dominant role in the nitritation of both reactors, and this was true especially for the MBR. The remaining less dominant species were speculated to constitute a reserve of AOB which can proliferate to replace the dominant species. The value of these parameters in terms of tools to assist the operation of activated-sludge systems is discussed.

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