Author(s): ValentnVargas A, ToroLabrador G, MassolDey AA
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Abstract 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 β-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.
This article was published in PLoS One
and referenced in Journal of Petroleum & Environmental Biotechnology