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Effects of short- and long-term exposures of humic acid on the Anammox activity and microbial community


Humic acid has a controversial effect on the biological treatment processes. Here, we have investigated humic acid effects on the Anammox activity by studying the nitrogen removal efficiencies in batch and continuous conditions and analyzing the microbial community using Fluorescence in situ hybridization (FISH) technique. The results showed that the Anammox activity was affected by the presence of humic acid at a concentration higher than 70 mg/L. In fact, in the presence of humic acid concentration of 200 mg/L, the Anammox activity decreased to 57% in batch and under continuous condition, the ammonium removal efficiencies of the reactor decreased from 78 to 41%. This reduction of Anammox activity after humic acid addition was highlighted by FISH analysis which revealed a considerable reduction of the abundance of Anammox bacteria and the bacteria living in symbiosis with them. Furthermore, a total inhibition of Candidatus Brocadia fulgida was observed. However, humic acid has promoted heterotrophic denitrifying bacteria which became dominant in the reactor. In fact, the evolution of the organic matter in the reactor showed that the added humic acid was used as carbon source by heterotrophic bacteria which explained the shift of metabolism to the favor of heterotrophic denitrifying bacteria. Accordingly, humic acid should be controlled in the influent to avoid Anammox activity inhibition.

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This research work is financially supported by the Tunisian Ministry of Higher Education, Scientific Research and Technology.

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Correspondence to Mohamed Ali Wahab.

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The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

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Responsible editor: Diane Purchase

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Kraiem, K., Wahab, M.A., Kallali, H. et al. Effects of short- and long-term exposures of humic acid on the Anammox activity and microbial community. Environ Sci Pollut Res 26, 19012–19024 (2019).

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  • Anammox bacteria
  • Heterotrophic bacteria
  • Humic acid
  • Inhibition
  • Nitrogen