Microbial diversity differences within aerobic granular sludge and activated sludge flocs
In this study, we investigated during 400 days the microbial community variations as observed from 16S DNA gene DGGE banding patterns from an aerobic granular sludge pilot plant as well as the from a full-scale activated sludge treatment plant in Epe, the Netherlands. Both plants obtained the same wastewater and had the same relative hydraulic variations and run stable over time. For the total bacterial population, a similarity analysis was conducted showing that the community composition of both sludge types was very dissimilar. Despite this difference, general bacterial population of both systems had on average comparable species richness, entropy, and evenness, suggesting that different bacteria were sharing the same functionality. Moreover, multi-dimensional scaling analysis revealed that the microbial populations of the flocculent sludge system moved closely around the initial population, whereas the bacterial population in the aerobic granular sludge moved away from its initial population representing a permanent change. In addition, the ammonium-oxidizing community of both sludge systems was studied in detail showing more unevenness than the general bacterial community. Nitrosomonas was the dominant AOB in flocculent sludge, whereas in granular sludge, Nitrosomonas and Nitrosospira were present in equal amounts. A correlation analysis of process data and microbial data from DGGE gels showed that the microbial diversity shift in ammonium-oxidizing bacteria clearly correlated with fluctuations in temperature.