Sequentially aerated membrane biofilm reactors for autotrophic nitrogen removal: microbial community composition and dynamics

Carles Pellicer i Nàcher, Stephanie Franck, Arda Gülay, M. Ruscalleda, A. Terada, W. Abu Al-Soud, M. Asser Hansen, S. J. Sørensen, Barth F. Smets

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Abstract

Membrane-aerated biofilm reactors performing autotrophic nitrogen removal can be successfully applied to treat concentrated nitrogen streams. However, their process performance is seriously
hampered by the growth of nitrite oxidizing bacteria (NOB). In this work we document how sequential aeration can bring the rapid and long-term suppression of NOB and the onset of the activity of anaerobic ammonium oxidizing bacteria (AnAOB). Real-time quantitative polymerase chain reaction analyses confirmed that such shift in performance was mirrored by a change in population densities, with a very drastic reduction of the NOB Nitrospira and Nitrobacter and a 10-fold increase in AnAOB numbers. The study of biofilm sections with relevant 16S rRNA fluorescent probes revealed strongly stratified biofilm structures fostering aerobic ammonium oxidizing bacteria (AOB) in biofilm areas close to the membrane surface (rich in oxygen) and AnAOB in regions neighbouring the liquid phase. Both communities were separated by a transition region potentially populated by denitrifying heterotrophic bacteria. AOB and AnAOB bacterial groups were more abundant and diverse
than NOB, and dominated by the r-strategists Nitrosomonas europaea and Ca. Brocadia anammoxidans, respectively. Taken together, the present work presents tools to better engineer, monitor and
control the microbial communities that support robust, sustainable and efficient nitrogen removal.
Original languageEnglish
JournalMicrobial Biotechnology
Volume7
Issue number1
Pages (from-to)32-43
Number of pages12
ISSN1751-7907
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2014

Bibliographical note

© 2013 The Authors. Microbial Biotechnology published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd and Society for Applied Microbiology. This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

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