A continuous nitrification reactor treating saline wastewater was operated for almost 1 year under low dissolved oxygen (DO) levels (0.15–0.5 mg/L) and high nitrogen loadings (0.26–0.52 kg-N/(m3 day)) in four phases. The diversity and abundance of ammonia-oxidizing archaea (AOA) and ammonia-oxidizing bacteria (AOB) were analyzed by cloning, terminal restriction fragment length polymorphism (T-RFLP) and quantitative polymerase chain reaction (qPCR). The results showed that there were only one dominant AOA species and one dominant AOB species in the reactor in all of the four experimental phases. The amoA gene of the dominant AOA only had a similarity of 89.3% with the cultured AOA species Nitrosopumilus maritimus SCM1. All of the AOB species detected in the reactor belong to Nitrosomonas genus and it was found that the AOB populations changed with the ammonium loadings and DO levels. The abundance of AOB in the reactor was ∼40 times larger than that of AOA, and the ratio of AOB to AOA increased significantly up to ∼2,000 to ∼4,000 with the increase of ammonium loading, indicating that AOB are much more competitive than AOA in high ammonium environments and probably AOA play a less important role than AOB in the nitrification reactors. Biotechnol. Bioeng. 2011;108: 2544–2552. © 2011 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.
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