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Combined Deterministic and Stochastic Processes Control Microbial Succession in Replicate Granular Biofilm Reactors

Journal article
Authors R. Liebana
O. Modin
F. Persson
E. Szabo
Malte Hermansson
B. M. Wilen
Published in Environmental Science & Technology
Volume 53
Issue 9
Pages 4912-4921
ISSN 0013-936X
Publication year 2019
Published at Department of Chemistry and Molecular Biology
Pages 4912-4921
Language en
Keywords community structure, bacterial communities, population-dynamics, aerobic, granulation, diversity, waste, water, performances, biogeography, generation
Subject categories Environmental engineering, Environmental Sciences


Granular sludge is an efficient and compact biofilm process for wastewater treatment. However, the ecological factors involved in microbial community assembly during the granular biofilm formation are poorly understood, and little is known about the reproducibility of the process. Here, three replicate bioreactors were used to investigate microbial succession during the formation of granular biofilms. We identified three successional phases. During the initial phase, the successional turnover was high and alpha-diversity decreased as a result of the selection of taxa adapted to grow on acetate and form aggregates. Despite these dynamic changes, the microbial communities in the replicate reactors were similar. The second successional phase occurred when the settling time was rapidly decreased to selectively retain granules in the reactors. The influence of stochasticity on succession increased and new niches were created as granules emerged, resulting in temporarily increased alpha-diversity. The third successional phase occurred when the settling time was kept stable and granules dominated the biomass. Turnover was low, and selection resulted in the same abundant taxa in the reactors, but drift, which mostly affected low-abundant community members, caused the community in one reactor to diverge from the other two. Even so, performance was stable and similar between reactors.

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