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Bacterial community activity and dynamics in the biofilm of an experimental hybrid wetland system treating greywater


The objectives of this study were to determine the biofilm microbial activity and bacterial community structure and successions in greywater treatment filters and to relate the treatment efficiency to the bacterial community parameters. This 10-month study was performed in a newly established experimental system for domestic greywater treatment that consisted of three parallel vertical flow filters (VFs) followed by a horizontal flow filter (HF). A rapid increase in the bacterial community abundance occurred during the first 85 days of filter operations, followed by a short-term decrease and the stabilization of the 16S rRNA gene copy numbers at average levels of 1.2 × 109 and 3.2 × 108 copies/g dw in VFs and HF, respectively, until the end of the experiment. The dominant bacterial phyla and genera differed between the VFs and HF. The temporal variation in the bacterial community structure was primarily related to the species replacement, and it was significantly affected by the influent organic carbon and nitrogen compounds in the VFs and the ammonia and organic carbon in the HF filters. Despite the differences in the community structure and assembly mechanisms, the temporal dynamics of the bacterial community showed high congruence between the filter types. The treatment efficiency was related to the biofilm bacterial community diversity and abundance and the abundance of certain bacterial genera in the VF filters. The results suggest that the dominant pathway of nitrogen removal by greywater treatment VFs occurs via coupled heterotrophic nitrification and denitrification, while the contribution of aerobic denitrification is temporally variable in these filters.

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This study was supported by 7th EU Framework project No 232274, by the Ministry of Education and Science of Estonia grant No IUT13016 and Estonian Research Council grant No PUT1125.

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Correspondence to Jaak Truu.

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Responsible editor: Robert Duran

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Truu, M., Oopkaup, K., Krustok, I. et al. Bacterial community activity and dynamics in the biofilm of an experimental hybrid wetland system treating greywater. Environ Sci Pollut Res 26, 4013–4026 (2019).

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  • Bacterial community
  • Biofilm
  • Greywater
  • Treatment wetland