Wastewater purification is mostly performed in activated sludge reactors by bacterial and microeukaryotic communities, populating organic flocs and a watery liquor. While there are numerous molecular community studies of the bacterial fraction, those on microeukaryotes are rare. We performed a year-long parallel 16S rRNA gene and 18S rRNA-gene based analysis of the bacterial and of the microeukaryote communities, respectively, of physically separated flocs and particle-free liquor samples from three WWTPs. This uncovered a hitherto unknown large diversity of microeukaryotes largely composed of potential phagotrophs preferentially feeding on either bacteria or other microeukaryotes. We further explored whether colonization of the microhabitats was selective, showing that for both microbial communities, different but often closely taxonomically and functionally related populations exhibiting different dynamic patterns populated the microhabitats. An analysis of their between plants-shared core populations showed the microeukaryotes to be dispersal limited in comparison to bacteria. Finally, a detailed analysis of a weather-caused operational disruption in one of the plants suggested that the absence of populations common to the floc and liquor habitat may negatively affect resilience and stability.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
We would like to thank Ashraf Al Ashhab and Amatzia Wilk for their help with sample logistics at the Al-Bireh and Shaf-dan plants respectively. This project was supported by a grant from the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG; number CH 731/2-1).
© 2019 Society for Applied Microbiology and John Wiley & Sons Ltd.