Bacterial dynamics in steady-state biofilters: beyond functional stability


Correspondence: Luc Malhautier, Laboratoire Génie de l'Environnement Industriel, Ecole des Mines d'Alès, 6 avenue de Clavières, 30319 Alès Cedex, France. Tel.: +33 0 4 66782778; fax: +33 0 4 66782701; e-mail:


The spatial and temporal dynamics of microbial community structure and function were surveyed in duplicated woodchip-biofilters operated under constant conditions for 231 days. The contaminated gaseous stream for treatment was representative of composting emissions, included ammonia, dimethyl disulfide and a mixture of five oxygenated volatile organic compounds. The community structure and diversity were investigated by denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis on 16S rRNA gene fragments. During the first 42 days, microbial acclimatization revealed the influence of operating conditions and contaminant loading on the biofiltration community structure and diversity, as well as the limited impact of inoculum compared to the greater persistence of the endogenous woodchip community. During long-term operation, a high and stable removal efficiency was maintained despite a highly dynamic microbial community, suggesting the probable functional redundancy of the community. Most of the contaminant removal occurred in the first compartment, near the gas inlet, where the microbial diversity was the highest. The stratification of the microbial structures along the filter bed was statistically correlated to the longitudinal distribution of environmental conditions (selective pressure imposed by contaminant concentrations) and function (contaminant elimination capacity), highlighting the central role of the bacterial community. The reproducibility of microbial succession in replicates suggests that the community changes were presumably driven by a deterministic process.