Creating structurally and functionally stable microbiomes would be greatly beneficial to biotechnology and human health but so far has proven challenging. Here, we propose a looped mass transfer design that keeps microbiomes constant over long periods of time. The effluent of five parallel reactors that began with the same inoculum, was mixed in a reactor that represented a regional pool. Part of this pool was transferred back to the five reactors. Community dynamics were monitored and visualized by quantitative microbial flow cytometry and selected taxonomic sequencing of whole communities and sorted subcommunities. The rescue effect, known from metacommunity theory, was the main stabilizing mechanism that led to the survival of subcommunities with zero netgrowth, especially at high mass transfer rates. The looped mass transfer approach promises to overcome notorious stochastic structural fluctuations in bioreactors and has the potential to design and stabilize communities that can perform desired functions.
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