Bacterial community dynamics and taxa-time relationships within two activated sludge bioreactors.
ABSTRACT: BACKGROUND: Biological activated sludge process must be functionally stable to continuously remove contaminants while relying upon the activity of complex microbial communities. However the dynamics of these communities are as yet poorly understood. A macroecology metric used to quantify community dynamic is the taxa-time relationship (TTR). Although the TTR of animal and plant species has been well documented, knowledge is still lacking in regard to TTR of microbial communities in activated sludge bioreactors. AIMS: 1) To characterize the temporal dynamics of bacterial taxa in activated sludge from two bioreactors of different scale and investigate factors affecting such dynamics; 2) to evaluate the TTRs of activated sludge microbial communities in two bioreactors of different scale. METHODS: Temporal variation of bacterial taxa in activated sludge collected from a full- and lab-scale activated sludge bioreactor was monitored over a one-year period using pyrosequencing of 16S rRNA genes. TTR was employed to quantify the bacterial taxa shifts based on the power law equation S?=?cTw. RESULTS: The power law exponent w for the full-scale bioreactor was 0.43 (R2?=?0.970), which is lower than that of the lab-scale bioreactor (w?=?0.55, R2?=?0.971). The exponents for the dominant phyla were generally higher than that of the rare phyla. Canonical correspondence analysis (CCA) result showed that the bacterial community variance was significantly associated with water temperature, influent (biochemical oxygen demand) BOD, bioreactor scale and dissolved oxygen (DO). Variance partitioning analyses suggested that wastewater characteristics had the greatest contribution to the bacterial community variance, explaining 20.3% of the variance of bacterial communities independently, followed by operational parameters (19.9%) and bioreactor scale (3.6%). CONCLUSIONS: Results of this study suggest bacterial community dynamics were likely driven partly by wastewater and operational parameters and provide evidence that the TTR may be a fundamental ecological pattern in macro- and microbial systems.
Project description:The assembling of bacterial communities in conventional activated sludge (CAS) bioreactors was thought, until recently, to be chaotic and mostly unpredictable. Studies done over the last decade have shown that specific, and often, predictable random and non-random factors could be responsible for that process. These studies have also motivated a "structure-function" paradigm that is yet to be resolved. Thus, elucidating the factors that affect community assembly in the bioreactors is necessary for predicting fluctuations in community structure and function. For this study activated sludge samples were collected during a one-year period from two geographically distant CAS bioreactors of different size. Combining community fingerprinting analysis and operational parameters data with a robust statistical analysis, we aimed to identify relevant links between system performance and bacterial community diversity and dynamics. In addition to revealing a significant ?-diversity between the bioreactors' communities, results showed that the largest bioreactor had a less dynamic but more efficient and diverse bacterial community throughout the study. The statistical analysis also suggests that deterministic factors, as opposed to stochastic factors, may have a bigger impact on the community structure in the largest bioreactor. Furthermore, the community seems to rely mainly on mechanisms of resistance and functional redundancy to maintain functional stability. We suggest that the ecological theories behind the Island Biogeography model and the species-area relationship were appropriate to predict the assembly of bacterial communities in these CAS bioreactors. These results are of great importance for engineers and ecologists as they reveal critical aspects of CAS systems that could be applied towards improving bioreactor design and operation.
Project description:Seasonal community structure and regionally synchronous population dynamics have been observed in natural microbial ecosystems, but have not been well documented in wastewater treatment bioreactors. Few studies of community dynamics in full-scale activated sludge systems facing similar meteorological conditions have been done to compare the importance of deterministic and neutral community assembly mechanisms. We subjected weekly activated sludge samples from six regional full-scale bioreactors at four wastewater treatment plants obtained over 1 year to Illumina sequencing of 16S ribosomal RNA genes, resulting in a library of over 17 million sequences. All samples derived from reactors treating primarily municipal wastewater. Despite variation in operational characteristics and location, communities displayed temporal synchrony at the individual operational taxonomic unit (OTU), broad phylogenetic affiliation and community-wide scale. Bioreactor communities were dominated by 134 abundant and highly regionally synchronized OTU populations that accounted for over 50% of the total reads. Non-core OTUs displayed abundance-dependent population synchrony. Alpha diversity varied by reactor, but showed a highly reproducible and synchronous seasonal fluctuation. Community similarity was dominated by seasonal changes, but individual reactors maintained minor stable differences after 1 year. Finally, the impacts of mass migration driven by direct biomass transfers between reactors was investigated, but had no significant effect on community similarity or diversity in the sink community. Our results show that population dynamics in activated sludge bioreactors are consistent with niche-driven assembly guided by seasonal temperature fluctuations.
Project description:Studies investigating the feasibility of new, or improved, biotechnologies, such as wastewater treatment digesters, inevitably start with laboratory-scale trials. However, it is rarely determined whether laboratory-scale results reflect full-scale performance or microbial ecology. The Expanded Granular Sludge Bed (EGSB) bioreactor, which is a high-rate anaerobic digester configuration, was used as a model to address that knowledge gap in this study. Two laboratory-scale idealizations of the EGSB-a one-dimensional and a three- dimensional scale-down of a full-scale design-were built and operated in triplicate under near-identical conditions to a full-scale EGSB. The laboratory-scale bioreactors were seeded using biomass obtained from the full-scale bioreactor, and, spent water from the distillation of whisky from maize was applied as substrate at both scales. Over 70 days, bioreactor performance, microbial ecology, and microbial community physiology were monitored at various depths in the sludge-beds using 16S rRNA gene sequencing (V4 region), specific methanogenic activity (SMA) assays, and a range of physical and chemical monitoring methods. SMA assays indicated dominance of the hydrogenotrophic pathway at full-scale whilst a more balanced activity profile developed during the laboratory-scale trials. At each scale, Methanobacterium was the dominant methanogenic genus present. Bioreactor performance overall was better at laboratory-scale than full-scale. We observed that bioreactor design at laboratory-scale significantly influenced spatial distribution of microbial community physiology and taxonomy in the bioreactor sludge-bed, with 1-D bioreactor types promoting stratification of each. In the 1-D laboratory bioreactors, increased abundance of Firmicutes was associated with both granule position in the sludge bed and increased activity against acetate and ethanol as substrates. We further observed that stratification in the sludge-bed in 1-D laboratory-scale bioreactors was associated with increased richness in the underlying microbial community at species (OTU) level and improved overall performance.
Project description:Wastewater treatment plants use a variety of bioreactor types and configurations to remove organic matter and nutrients. Little is known regarding the effects of different configurations and within-plant immigration on microbial community dynamics. Previously, we found that the structure of ammonia-oxidizing bacterial (AOB) communities in a full-scale dispersed growth activated sludge bioreactor correlated strongly with levels of NO2- entering the reactor from an upstream trickling filter (Wells et al 2009). Here, to further examine this puzzling association, we profile within-plant microbial biogeography (spatial variation) and test the hypothesis that substantial microbial immigration occurs along a transect (raw influent, trickling filter biofilm, trickling filter effluent, and activated sludge) at the same full-scale wastewater treatment plant. AOB amoA gene abundance increased >30-fold between influent and trickling filter effluent concomitant with NO2- production, indicating unexpected growth and activity of AOB within the trickling filter. Nitrosomonas europaea was the dominant AOB phylotype in trickling filter biofilm and effluent, while a distinct ‘Nitrosomonas-like’ lineage dominated in activated sludge. Prior time series indicated that this ‘Nitrosomonas-like’ lineage was dominant when NO2- levels in the trickling filter effluent (i.e., activated sludge influent) were low, while N. europaea became dominant in the activated sludge when NO2- levels were high. This is consistent with the hypothesis that NO2- production may co-occur with biofilm sloughing, releasing N. europaea from the trickling filter into the activated sludge bioreactor. Phylogenetic microarray (PhyloChip) analyses revealed significant spatial variation in taxonomic diversity, including a large excess of methanogens in the trickling filter relative to activated sludge and attenuation of Enterobacteriaceae across the transect, and demonstrated transport of a highly diverse microbial community via the trickling filter effluent to the activated sludge bioreactor. Our results provide compelling evidence that substantial immigration between coupled process units occurs and may exert significant influence over microbial community dynamics within staged bioreactors. Overall design: Samples described in this study were obtained at the Palo Alto Regional Water Quality Control Plant (PARWQCP) in Palo Alto, CA on 12 November 2008. Sampling along a transect within the PARWQCP occurred on 12 November 2008. Upon temporary shutdown of the rotating distributor arm in one of the trickling filters, a surface PVC media module (0.9 m deep) was removed from the reactor, and 1-3 g biofilm samples were obtained with a sterile spatula, placed in sterile 1.5 ml tubes, weighed, and stored at -20oC. Concurrently, samples of influent, trickling filter effluent, and activated sludge were obtained. Activated sludge samples represented a 24-h composite from the combined outlet of all four aeration basins using a Sigma 900 refrigerated automatic sampler (Hach, Loveland, CO). Eight 1.5 ml activated sludge samples were centrifuged onsite for 5 min at 5000 g, decanted, and stored at -20oC. Raw influent and trickling filter effluent samples were transported on ice to the laboratory, vacuum filtered in 10 ml aliquots onto 0.22 μm Hydrophilic Durapore PVDF filters (25 mm diameter, Millipore, Billerica, MA), and archived at -20oC. PhyloChip analyses were performed on biological triplicate samples from trickling filter biofilm, trickling filter effluent, and activated sludge, and biological duplicate samples (due to biomass limitations) from the plant influent.
Project description:Methanogenic sludge granules are densely packed, small, spherical biofilms found in anaerobic digesters used to treat industrial wastewaters, where they underpin efficient organic waste conversion and biogas production. Each granule theoretically houses representative microorganisms from all of the trophic groups implicated in the successive and interdependent reactions of the anaerobic digestion (AD) process. Information on exactly how methanogenic granules develop, and their eventual fate will be important for precision management of environmental biotechnologies. Granules from a full-scale bioreactor were size-separated into small (0.6-1 mm), medium (1-1.4 mm), and large (1.4-1.8 mm) size fractions. Twelve laboratory-scale bioreactors were operated using either small, medium, or large granules, or unfractionated sludge. After >50 days of operation, the granule size distribution in each of the small, medium, and large bioreactor sets had diversified beyond-to both bigger and smaller than-the size fraction used for inoculation. Interestingly, extra-small (XS; <0.6 mm) granules were observed, and retained in all of the bioreactors, suggesting the continuous nature of granulation, and/or the breakage of larger granules into XS bits. Moreover, evidence suggested that even granules with small diameters could break. "New" granules from each emerging size were analyzed by studying community structure based on high-throughput 16S rRNA gene sequencing. Methanobacterium, Aminobacterium, Propionibacteriaceae, and Desulfovibrio represented the majority of the community in new granules. H2-using, and not acetoclastic, methanogens appeared more important, and were associated with abundant syntrophic bacteria. Multivariate integration (MINT) analyses identified distinct discriminant taxa responsible for shaping the microbial communities in different-sized granules.
Project description:Wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs) contain high density and diversity of viruses which can significantly impact microbial communities in aquatic systems. While previous studies have investigated viruses in WWTP samples that have been specifically concentrated for viruses and filtered to exclude bacteria, little is known about viral communities associated with bacterial communities throughout wastewater treatment systems. Additionally, differences in viral composition between attached and suspended growth wastewater treatment bioprocesses are not well characterized. Here, shotgun metagenomics was used to analyse wastewater and biomass from transects through two full-scale WWTPs for viral composition and associations with bacterial hosts. One WWTP used a suspended growth activated sludge bioreactor and the other used a biofilm reactor (trickling filter). Myoviridae, Podoviridae and Siphoviridae were the dominant viral families throughout both WWTPs, which are all from the order Caudovirales. Beta diversity analysis of viral sequences showed that samples clustered significantly both by plant and by specific sampling location. For each WWTP, the overall bacterial community structure was significantly different than community structure of bacterial taxa associated with viral sequences. These findings highlight viral community composition in transects through different WWTPs and provide context for dsDNA viral sequences in bacterial communities from these systems.
Project description:Two aerobic, lab-scale, slurry-phase bioreactors were used to examine the biodegradation of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) in contaminated soil and the associated bacterial communities. The two bioreactors were operated under semi-continuous (draw-and-fill) conditions at a residence time of 35 days, but one was fed weekly and the other monthly. Most of the quantified PAHs, including high-molecular-weight compounds, were removed to a greater extent in the weekly-fed bioreactor, which achieved total PAH removal of 76%. Molecular analyses, including pyrosequencing of 16S rRNA genes, revealed significant shifts in the soil bacterial communities after introduction to the bioreactors and differences in the abundance and types of bacteria in each of the bioreactors. The weekly-fed bioreactor displayed a more stable bacterial community with gradual changes over time, whereas the monthly-fed bioreactor community was less consistent and may have been more strongly influenced by the influx of untreated soil during feeding. Phylogenetic groups containing known PAH-degrading bacteria previously identified through stable-isotope probing of the untreated soil were differentially affected by bioreactor conditions. Sequences from members of the Acidovorax and Sphingomonas genera, as well as the uncultivated "Pyrene Group 2" were abundant in the bioreactors. However, the relative abundances of sequences from the Pseudomonas, Sphingobium, and Pseudoxanthomonas genera, as well as from a group of unclassified anthracene degraders, were much lower in the bioreactors compared to the untreated soil.
Project description:A filtration devise was developed to assess compressibility of fouling layers in membrane bioreactors. The system consists of a flat sheet membrane with air scouring operated at constant transmembrane pressure to assess the influence of pressure on resistance of fouling layers. By fitting a mathematical model, three model parameters were obtained; a back transport parameter describing the kinetics of fouling layer formation, a specific fouling layer resistance, and a compressibility parameter. This stands out from other on-site filterability tests as model parameters to simulate filtration performance are obtained together with a characterization of compressibility. Tests on membrane bioreactor sludge showed high reproducibility. The methodology's ability to assess compressibility was tested by filtrations of sludges from membrane bioreactors and conventional activated sludge wastewater treatment plants from three different sites. These proved that membrane bioreactor sludge showed higher compressibility than conventional activated sludge. In addition, detailed information on the underlying mechanisms of the difference in fouling propensity were obtained, as conventional activated sludge showed slower fouling formation, lower specific resistance and lower compressibility of fouling layers, which is explained by a higher degree of flocculation.
Project description:The bacterial community structure of 10 different wastewater treatment systems and their influents has been investigated through pyrosequencing, yielding a total of 283486 reads. These bioreactors had different technological configurations: conventional activated sludge (CAS) systems and very highly loaded A-stage systems. A-stage processes are proposed as the first step in an energy producing municipal wastewater treatment process. Pyrosequencing analysis indicated that bacterial community structure of all influents was similar. Also the bacterial community of all CAS bioreactors was similar. Bacterial community structure of A-stage bioreactors showed a more case-specific pattern. A core of genera was consistently found for all influents, all CAS bioreactors and all A-stage bioreactors, respectively, showing that different geographical locations in The Netherlands and Spain did not affect the functional bacterial communities in these technologies. The ecological roles of these bacteria were discussed. Influents and A-stage bioreactors shared several core genera, while none of these were shared with CAS bioreactors communities. This difference is thought to reside in the different operational conditions of the two technologies. This study shows that bacterial community structure of CAS and A-stage bioreactors are mostly driven by solids retention time (SRT) and hydraulic retention time (HRT), as suggested by multivariate redundancy analysis.
Project description:In this study, two anoxic-oxic membrane bioreactor (A/O-MBR) systems, i.e. conventional and biofilm anoxic-oxic-membrane bioreactors (C-A/O-MBR and BF-A/O-MBR, respectively), were operated in parallel under conditions of complete sludge retention for the purposes of comparing system performance and microbial community composition. Moreover, with the microbial communities, comparisons were made between the adhesive stage and the suspended stage. High average removal of COD, NH4+-N and TN was achieved in both systems. However, TP removal efficiency was remarkably higher in BF-A/O-MBR when compared with C-A/O-MBR. TP mass balance analysis suggested that under complete sludge retention, polyurethane sponges that were added into the anoxic tank played a key role in both phosphorus release and accumulation. The qPCR analysis showed that sponge biomass could maintain a higher level of abundance of total bacteria than the suspended sludge. Meanwhile, AOB and denitrifiers were enriched in the suspended sludge but not in the sponge biomass. Results of illumina sequencing reveal that the compacted sponge in BF-A/O-MBR could promote the growth of bacteria involved in nutrient removal and reduce the amount of filamentous and bacterial growth that is related to membrane fouling in the suspended sludge.