Seasonal community structure and regionally synchronous population dynamics have been observed in natural microbial ecosystems, but have not been well documented in wastewater treatment bioreactors. Few studies of community dynamics in full-scale activated sludge systems facing similar meteorological conditions have been done to compare the importance of deterministic and neutral community assembly mechanisms. We subjected weekly activated sludge samples from six regional full-scale bioreactors at four wastewater treatment plants obtained over 1 year to Illumina sequencing of 16S ribosomal RNA genes, resulting in a library of over 17 million sequences. All samples derived from reactors treating primarily municipal wastewater. Despite variation in operational characteristics and location, communities displayed temporal synchrony at the individual operational taxonomic unit (OTU), broad phylogenetic affiliation and community-wide scale. Bioreactor communities were dominated by 134 abundant and highly regionally synchronized OTU populations that accounted for over 50% of the total reads. Non-core OTUs displayed abundance-dependent population synchrony. Alpha diversity varied by reactor, but showed a highly reproducible and synchronous seasonal fluctuation. Community similarity was dominated by seasonal changes, but individual reactors maintained minor stable differences after 1 year. Finally, the impacts of mass migration driven by direct biomass transfers between reactors was investigated, but had no significant effect on community similarity or diversity in the sink community. Our results show that population dynamics in activated sludge bioreactors are consistent with niche-driven assembly guided by seasonal temperature fluctuations.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics