Direct evidence for deterministic assembly of bacterial communities in full-scale municipal wastewater treatment facilities

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Abstract

In this study we investigated whether bacterial community composition in full-scale wastewater treatment bioreactors can be better explained by niche- or neutral- based theory (deterministic or stochastic) and whether bioreactor design (continuous-flow vs. fill-and-draw) affected community assembly. Four wastewater treatment facilities (one with quadruplicated continuous-flow bioreactors, two with one continuous-flow bioreactor each, one with triplicated fill-and-draw bioreactors) were investigated. Bioreactor community composition was characterized by sequencing of PCR-amplified 16S rRNA gene fragments. Replicate bioreactors at the same wastewater treatment facility had largely reproducible (i.e., deterministic) bacterial community composition, although bacterial community composition in continuous-flow bioreactors was significantly more reproducible ( P < 0.001) than in fill-and-draw bioreactors (Bray-Curtis dissimilarity: u = 0.48 ± 0.06 vs. 0.58 ± 0.08). Next, we compared our results to previously-used indirect methods for distinguishing between deterministic and stochastic community assembly mechanisms. Synchronicity was observed in the bacterial community composition among bioreactors within the same metropolitan region, consistent with deterministic community assembly. Similarly, a null model-based analysis also indicated that all wastewater bioreactor communities were controlled by deterministic factors and that continuous-flow bioreactors were significantly more deterministic ( P < 0.001) than fill-and-draw bioreactors (nearest-taxon index: u = 3.3 ± 0.6 vs. 2.7 ± 0.8). Our results indicate that bacterial community composition in wastewater treatment bioreactors is better explained by deterministic community assembly theory; simultaneously, our results validate previously-used but indirect methods to quantify whether microbial communities were assembled via deterministic or stochastic mechanisms.
Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalApplied and environmental microbiology
Volume87
Issue number20
DOIs
StatePublished - Sep 28 2021

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