Microbial morphology and community structure in a suspended carrier biofilm reactor as a function of substrate loading rates


Fu Bo, Liao Xiaoyi, Ding Lili, Xu Ke and Ren Hongqiang*

An aerobic suspended carrier biofilm reactor was efficient in simultaneous organic carbon and nitrogen removal, with COD removal efficiencies of 87.1–99.0% and simultaneous nitrification and denitrification (SND) efficiencies about 96.7-98.8%. The effects of substrate loading on microbial morphology and community structure were investigated by environmental scanning electron microscopy (ESEM), denaturing gel gradient electrophoresis (DGGE) and fluorescence in situ hybridization (FISH). Biofilms formed at different substrate loadings had different morphology and community structures. A higher substrate concentration resulted in denser and thinner biofilms, while a lower substrate concentration resulted in looser and thicker biofilms with significant presence of filamentous bacteria. Both sequence analysis of DGGE bands and FISH analysis indicated the dominance of βProteobacteria in the biofilm communities, especially Zoogloea. FISH analysis revealed that the relative abundance of β-proteobacteria ammonia oxidizing bacteria (AOB) was positively correlated with ammonium concentrations, whereas Nitrospira-like nitrite-oxidizing bacteria (NOB) were negatively affected by ammonia and nitrite concentrations. The presence of denitrifying bacteria, Hydrogenophaga spp., Hyphomicrobium spp. and Rhizobium spp. suggested that not only the oxygen microgradients within the biofilm but also aerobic denitrifiers may be responsible for SND in the aerobic biofilm. 

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