Succession of biofilm communities responsible for biofouling of membrane bioreactors (MBRs)

Publication Type:
Journal Article
PLoS ONE, 2017, 12 (7)
Issue Date:
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© 2017 Luo et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited. Biofilm formation is one of the main factors associated with membrane biofouling in membrane bioreactors (MBRs). As such, it is important to identify the responsible organisms to develop targeted strategies to control biofouling. This study investigated the composition and changes in the microbial communities fouling MBR membranes over time and correlated those changes with an increase in transmembrane pressure (TMP). Based on qPCR data, bacteria were the dominant taxa of the biofilm (92.9–98.4%) relative to fungi (1.5–6.9%) and archaea (0.03–0.07%). NMDS analysis indicated that during the initial stages of operation, the biofilm communities were indistinguishable from those found in the sludge. However, the biofilm community significantly diverged from the sludge over time and ultimately showed a unique biofilm profile. This suggested that there was strong selection for a group of organisms that were biofilm specialists. This pattern of succession and selection was correlated with the rapid increase in TMP, where bacteria including Rhodospirillales, Sphingomonadales and Rhizobiales dominated the biofilm at this time. While most of the identified fungal OTUs matched Candida sp., the majority of fungal communities were unclassified by 18S rRNA gene sequencing. Collectively, the data suggests that bacteria, primarily, along with fungi may play an important role in the rapid TMP increase and loss of system performance.
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