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Identifying the abundant and active microorganisms common to full scale anaerobic digesters

By Rasmus H. Kirkegaard, Simon Jon McIlroy, Jannie M. Kristensen, Marta Nierychlo, S√łeren M. Karst, Morten Simonsen Dueholm, Mads Albertsen, Per Halkjaer Nielsen

Posted 31 Jan 2017
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/104620 (published DOI: 10.1038/s41598-017-09303-0)

Anaerobic digestion is widely applied to treat organic waste at wastewater treatment plants. Characterisation of the underlying microbiology represents a source of information to develop strategies for improved operation. To this end, we investigated the microbial community composition of thirty two full scale digesters over a six year period using 16S rRNA gene amplicon sequencing. Sampling of the sludge fed into these systems revealed that several of the most abundant populations were likely inactive and immigrating with the influent. This observation indicates that a failure to consider immigration will interfere with correlation analysis and give an inaccurate picture of the active microbial community. Furthermore, several abundant OTUs could not be classified to genus level with commonly applied taxonomies, making inference of their function unreliable. As such, the existing MiDAS taxonomy was updated to include these abundant phylotypes. The communities of individual plants surveyed were remarkably similar, with only 300 OTUs representing 80% of the total reads across all plants, and 15% of these identified as likely inactive immigrating microbes. By identifying the abundant and active taxa in anaerobic digestion, this study paves the way for targeted characterisation of the process important organisms towards an in depth understanding of the microbial ecology of these biotechnologically important systems.

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