Community structure of partial nitritation-anammox biofilms at decreasing substrate concentrations and low temperature
Journal article, 2017

Partial nitritation-anammox (PNA) permits energy effective nitrogen removal. Today PNA is used for treatment of concentrated and warm side streams at wastewater treatment plants, but not the more diluted and colder main stream. To implement PNA in the main stream, better knowledge about microbial communities at the typical environmental conditions is necessary. In order to investigate the response of PNA microbial communities to decreasing substrate availability, we have operated a moving bed biofilm reactor (MBBR) at decreasing reactor concentrations (311–27 mg-N l−1 of ammonium) and low temperature (13°C) for 302 days and investigated the biofilm community using high throughput amplicon sequencing; quantitative PCR; and fluorescence in situ hybridization. The anammox bacteria (Ca. Brocadia) constituted a large fraction of the biomass with fewer aerobic ammonia oxidizing bacteria (AOB) and even less nitrite oxidizing bacteria (NOB; Nitrotoga, Nitrospira and Nitrobacter). Still, NOB had considerable impact on the process performance. The anammox bacteria, AOB and NOB all harboured more than one population, indicating some diversity, and the heterotrophic bacterial community was diverse (seven phyla). Despite the downshifts in substrate availability, changes in the relative abundance and composition of anammox bacteria, AOB and NOB were small and also the heterotrophic community showed little changes in composition. This indicates stability of PNA MBBR communities towards decreasing substrate availability and suggests that even heterotrophic bacteria are integral components of these communities.

community structure



main stream

partial nitritation


Frank Persson

Chalmers, Civil and Environmental Engineering, Water Environment Technology

Carolina Suarez

University of Gothenburg

Malte Hermansson

University of Gothenburg

Elzbieta Plaza

Royal Institute of Technology (KTH)

Razia Sultana

Royal Institute of Technology (KTH)

Britt-Marie Wilen

Chalmers, Civil and Environmental Engineering, Water Environment Technology

Microbial Biotechnology

1751-7907 (ISSN) 17517915 (eISSN)

Vol. 10 4 SI 761-772

Areas of Advance

Building Futures (2010-2018)

Subject Categories

Water Engineering


Water Treatment



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