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Community structure of partial nitritation-anammox biofilms at decreasing substrate concentrations and low temperature

Journal article
Authors Frank Persson
Carolina Suarez
Malte Hermansson
Elzbieta Plaza
Razia Sultana
Britt-Marie Wilén
Published in Microbial Biotechnology
Volume 10
Issue 4
Pages 761-772
ISSN 1751-7907
Publication year 2017
Published at Department of Chemistry and Molecular Biology
Pages 761-772
Language en
Keywords main stream, MBBR, partial nitritation, anammox, community structure
Subject categories Water Treatment, Water Engineering, Microbiology


Partial nitritation-anammox (PNA) permits energy effective nitrogen removal. Today PNA is used for treatment of concentrated and warm side streams at wastewater treatment plants, but not the more diluted and colder main stream. To implement PNA in the main stream, better knowledge about microbial communities at the typical environmental conditions is necessary. In order to investigate the response of PNA microbial communities to decreasing substrate availability, we have operated a moving bed biofilm reactor (MBBR) at decreasing reactor concentrations (311–27 mg-N l−1 of ammonium) and low temperature (13°C) for 302 days and investigated the biofilm community using high throughput amplicon sequencing; quantitative PCR; and fluorescence in situ hybridization. The anammox bacteria (Ca. Brocadia) constituted a large fraction of the biomass with fewer aerobic ammonia oxidizing bacteria (AOB) and even less nitrite oxidizing bacteria (NOB; Nitrotoga, Nitrospira and Nitrobacter). Still, NOB had considerable impact on the process performance. The anammox bacteria, AOB and NOB all harboured more than one population, indicating some diversity, and the heterotrophic bacterial community was diverse (seven phyla). Despite the downshifts in substrate availability, changes in the relative abundance and composition of anammox bacteria, AOB and NOB were small and also the heterotrophic community showed little changes in composition. This indicates stability of PNA MBBR communities towards decreasing substrate availability and suggests that even heterotrophic bacteria are integral components of these communities.

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