Background The microbial community in a biogas reactor greatly influences the process performance. However, only the effects of deterministic factors (such as temperature and hydraulic retention time (HRT)) on the microbial community and performance have been investigated in biogas reactors. Little is known about the manner in which stochastic factors (for example, stochastic birth, death, colonization, and extinction) and disturbance affect the stable-state microbial community and reactor performances. Results In the present study, three replicate biogas reactors treating cattle manure were run to examine the role of stochastic factors and disturbance in shaping microbial communities. In the triplicate biogas reactors with the same inoculum and operational conditions, similar process performances and microbial community profiles were observed under steady-state conditions. This indicated that stochastic factors had a minor role in shaping the profile of the microbial community composition and activity in biogas reactors. On the contrary, temperature disturbance was found to play an important role in the microbial community composition as well as process performance for biogas reactors. Although three different temperature disturbances were applied to each biogas reactor, the increased methane yields (around 10% higher) and decreased volatile fatty acids (VFAs) concentrations at steady state were found in all three reactors after the temperature disturbances. After the temperature disturbance, the biogas reactors were brought back to the original operational conditions; however, new steady-state microbial community profiles were observed in all the biogas reactors. Conclusions The present study demonstrated that temperature disturbance, but not stochastic factors, played an important role in shaping the profile of the microbial community composition and activity in biogas reactors. New steady-state microbial community profiles and reactor performances were observed in all the biogas reactors after the temperature disturbance.
Biotechnology for Biofuels, 2015, Vol 8, Issue 3
Anaerobic digestion; Microbial community composition; Process performance; Temperature distribution