This study examined the hypothesis that different inorganic carbon (IC) conditions enrich different ammonia-oxidizing bacteria (AOB) and nitrite-oxidizing bacteria (NOB) populations by operating two laboratory-scale continuous-flow bioreactors fed with 15 and 100 mg IC/L, respectively. During this study, both bioreactors maintained satisfactory nitrification performance and stably oxidized 250 mg N/L of influent ammonium without nitrite accumulation. Based on results of cloning/sequencing and terminal restriction fragment length polymorphism targeting on the ammonia monooxygenase subunit A (amoA) gene, Nitrosomonas nitrosa lineage was identified as the dominant AOB population in the high-IC bioreactor, while Nitrosomonas europaea and Nitrosomonas nitrosa lineage AOB were dominant in the low-IC bioreactor. Results of real-time polymerase chain reactions for Nitrobacter and Nitrospira 16S rRNA genes indicated that Nitrospira was the predominant NOB population in the high-IC bioreactor, while Nitrobacter was the dominant NOB in the low-IC bioreactor. Furthermore, batch experiment results suggest that N. europaea and Nitrobacter populations are proliferated in the low-IC bioreactor due to their higher rates under low IC conditions despite the fact that these two populations have been identified as weak competitors, compared with N. nitrosa and Nitrospira, under low ammonium/nitrite environments. This study revealed that in addition to ammonium/nitrite concentrations, limited IC conditions may also be important in selecting dominant AOB/NOB communities of nitrifying bioreactors.
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