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ISME J. 2015 Mar;9(3):683-95. doi: 10.1038/ismej.2014.162. Epub 2014 Sep 2.

Bacterial assembly and temporal dynamics in activated sludge of a full-scale municipal wastewater treatment plant.

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Environmental Biotechnology Laboratory, Department of Civil Engineering, The University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong SAR, China.


Understanding environmental and biological influences on the dynamics of microbial communities has received great attention in microbial ecology. Here, utilizing large time-series 16S rRNA gene data, we show that in activated sludge of an environmentally important municipal wastewater treatment plant, 5-year temporal dynamics of bacterial community shows no significant seasonal succession, but is consistent with deterministic assemblage by taxonomic relatedness. Biological interactions are dominant drivers in determining the bacterial community assembly, whereas environmental conditions (mainly sludge retention time and inorganic nitrogen) partially explain phylogenetic and quantitative variances and indirectly influence bacterial assembly. We demonstrate a correlation-based statistical method to integrate bacterial association networks with their taxonomic affiliations to predict community-wide co-occurrence and co-exclusion patterns. The results show that although taxonomically closely related bacteria tend to positively co-occur (for example, out of a cooperative relationship), negative co-excluding correlations are deterministically observed between taxonomically less related species, probably implicating roles of competition in determining bacterial assembly. Overall, disclosures of the positive and negative species-species relations will improve our understanding of ecological niches occupied by unknown species and help to predict their biological functions in ecosystems.

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