, Volume 54, Issue 1, pp 21-30
Date: 22 Dec 2006

Molecular Monitoring of Microbial Population Dynamics During Operational Periods of Anaerobic Hybrid Reactor Treating Cassava Starch Wastewater

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This study characterized the microbial community and population dynamics in an anaerobic hybrid reactor (AHR) treating cassava starch wastewater. Methanogens and nonmethanogens were followed during the start-up and operation of the reactor, and linked to operational and performance data. Biomass samples taken from the sludge bed and packed bed zones of the AHR at intervals throughout the operational period were examined by 16S rRNA fluorescence in situ hybridization (FISH). The start-up seed and the reactor biomass were sampled during the feeding of the wastewater with a chemical oxygen demand (COD) value of 8 g L−1 and a hydraulic retention time (HRT) of 8 days. These samples were characterized by the predominance of cells with long-rod morphology similar to Methanosaeta spp. Following a sharp operational change, accomplished by increasing the COD concentration of the organic influent from 8 to 10 g L−1 and reducing the HRT from 8 to 5 days, there was a doubling of the organic loading rate, a reduction of the COD removal efficiency, as well as decreased methane content in the biogas and an accumulation of total volatile acids in the reactor. Moreover, this operational change resulted in a significant population shift from long-rod Methanosaeta-like cells to tetrad-forming Methanosarcina-like cells. The distributions of microbial populations involved in different zones of the AHR were determined. The results showed that nonmethanogens became the predominant population in both sludge and the packed bed zone. However, the percentage of methanogens in the packed bed zone was higher than that in the sludge bed zone. This higher percentage of methanogens was likely caused by the fact that the packed bed zone provided a suitable environmental condition with an appropriate nutrient availability for methanogen growth.