Characterizing the growing microorganisms at species level in 46 anaerobic digesters at Danish wastewater treatment plants: A six-year survey on microbiome structure and key drivers

Chenjing Jiang, Miriam Peces Gomez, Martin Hjorth Andersen, Sergey Kucheryavskiy, Marta Anna Nierychlo, Erika Yashiro, Kasper Skytte Andersen, Rasmus Hansen Kirkegaard, Liping Hao, Jan Høgh, Aviaja A. Hansen, Morten Simonsen Dueholm, Per Halkjær Nielsen*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearch


Anaerobic digestion (AD) is a key technology at many wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs) for converting surplus activated sludge to methane-rich biogas. However, the limited number of surveys and the lack of comprehensive data sets have hindered a deeper understanding of the characteristics and associations between key variables and the microbiome composition. Here, we present a six-year survey of 46 anaerobic digesters, located at 22 WWTPs in Denmark, which is the largest known study of the microbial ecology of AD at WWTPs at a regional scale. For three types of AD (mesophilic, mesophilic with thermal hydrolysis pretreatment, and thermophilic), we present the typical value range of 12 key parameters including operational variables and performance parameters. The bacterial and archaeal microbiomes were analyzed at species-level resolution using amplicon sequencing in >1,000 samples and the new ecosystem-specific MiDAS 3 reference database. We detected 42 phyla, 1,600 genera and 3,584 species in the bacterial microbiome, where 70% of the genera and 93% of the species represented uncultivated taxa that were only classified based on MiDAS 3 denovo placeholder taxonomy. More than 40% of the 100 most abundant bacterial species did not grow in the digesters and were only present due to immigration with the feed sludge. Temperature, ammonium concentration, and pH were the main drivers shaping the microbiome clusters of the three types of ADs for both bacteria and for archaea. Within mesophilic digesters, feed sludge composition and other key parameters (organic loading rate, biogas yield, and ammonium concentration) correlated with the growing bacterial microbiome. Furthermore, correlation analysis revealed the main drivers for specific species among growing bacteria and archaea, and revealed the potential ecological function of many novel taxa. Our study highlights the influence of immigration on bacterial AD microbiome. Subsetting the growing microbes improves the understanding of the diversity and main drivers of microbiome assembly, and elucidates functionality of specific species-level microorganisms. This six-year survey provides a comprehensive insight into microbiome structure at species level, engineering and ecological performance, and a foundation for future studies of the ecological significance/characteristics and function of the novel taxa.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 7 Jun 2020


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