Foaming is a common operational problem in anaerobic digestion (AD) systems, where hydrophobic filamentous microorganisms are usually considered to be the major cause. However, little is known about the identity of foam-stabilising microorganisms in AD systems, and control measures are lacking. This study identified putative foam forming microorganisms in 13 full-scale mesophilic digesters located at 11 wastewater treatment plants in Denmark, using 16S rRNA gene amplicon sequencing with species-level resolution and fluorescence in situ hybridization (FISH) for visualization. A foaming potential aeration test was applied to classify the digester sludges according to their foaming propensity. A high foaming potential for sludges was linked to the abundance of species from the genus Candidatus Microthrix, immigrating with the feed stream (surplus activated sludge), but also to several novel phylotypes potentially growing in the digester. These species were classified to the genera Ca. Brevefilum (Ca. B. fermentans) and Tetrasphaera (midas_s_5), the families ST-12K33 (midas_s_22), and Rikenellaceae (midas_s_141), and the archaeal genus Methanospirillum (midas_s_2576). Application of FISH showed that these potential foam-forming organisms all had a filamentous morphology. Additionally, it was shown that concentrations of ammonium and total nitrogen correlated strongly to the presence of foam-formers. This study provided new insight into the identity of putative foam-forming microorganisms in mesophilic AD systems, allowing for the subsequent surveillance of their abundances and studies of their ecology. Such information will importantly inform the development of control measures for these problematic microorganisms.
- Anaerobic digestion
- Foam-forming microorganism(s)
- Microbial community structure