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Day/night temperature differences (DNTD) trigger changes in nutrient removal and functional bacteria in membrane bioreactors

Zhang, Shaoqing, Sheng, Binbin, Lin, Wenting, Meng, Fangang
The Science of the total environment 2018 v.636 pp. 1202-1210
Nitrospina, Tetrasphaera, activated sludge, bacteria, bacterial communities, chemical oxygen demand, community structure, denitrifying microorganisms, ecological function, fouling, membrane bioreactors, metabolism, night temperature, ribosomal RNA, sequence analysis, wastewater treatment
Temperature is a well-known environmental stress that influences both microbial metabolism and community structure in the biological wastewater treatment systems. In this study, responses of biological performance and sludge microbiota to the long-term day/night temperature differences (DNTD) were investigated in membrane bioreactors (MBRs). The results showed that the functional bacteria could sustained their ecological functions at low DNTD (20/30 °C), resulting in relatively stable performance with respect to nutrient removal. However, when the activated sludge was subjected to a high DNTD (17/33 °C), the effluent concentrations of COD, TN and TP were significantly higher in MBR-B than that in MBR-A. In addition, more severe membrane fouling occurred under the perturbation of high DNTD as revealed by the transmembrane pressure (TMP) profile, which was mainly attributed to the accumulation of extracellular polymeric substances (EPS). The results of 16S rRNA gene sequencing showed that DNTD showed negligible effect on the bacterial community structures. Nonetheless, the functional bacteria responded differently to DNTD, which were in accordance with the bioreactor performances. Specifically, Nitrospina (NOB) and Tetrasphaera (PAOs) appeared to be sensitive to both low and high DNTD. In contrast, a low DNTD showed marginal effects on the denitrifiers, while a high DNTD significantly decreased their abundances. More strikingly, filamentous bulking bacteria were found to be well-adapted to DNTD, indicating their tolerance to the daily temperature fluctuation. This study will advance our knowledge regarding the response of microbial ecology of activated sludge to daily temperature variations in full-scale MBRs.