We studied the microbial community structure of pilot two-stage membrane biofilm reactors (MBfRs) designed to reduce nitrate (NO3-) and perchlorate (ClO4-) in contaminated groundwater. The groundwater also contained oxygen (O2) and sulfate (SO 42-), which became important electron sinks that affected the NO3- and ClO4- removal rates. Using pyrosequencing, we elucidated how important phylotypes of each "primary" microbial group, i.e., denitrifying bacteria (DB), perchlorate-reducing bacteria (PRB), and sulfate-reducing bacteria (SRB), responded to changes in electron-acceptor loading. UniFrac, principal coordinate analysis (PCoA), and diversity analyses documented that the microbial community of biofilms sampled when the MBfRs had a high acceptor loading were phylogenetically distant from and less diverse than the microbial community of biofilm samples with lower acceptor loadings. Diminished acceptor loading led to SO42- reduction in the lag MBfR, which allowed Desulfovibrionales (an SRB) and Thiothrichales (sulfur-oxidizers) to thrive through S cycling. As a result of this cooperative relationship, they competed effectively with DB/PRB phylotypes such as Xanthomonadales and Rhodobacterales. Thus, pyrosequencing illustrated that while DB, PRB, and SRB responded predictably to changes in acceptor loading, a decrease in total acceptor loading led to important shifts within the "primary" groups, the onset of other members (e.g., Thiothrichales), and overall greater diversity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)7511-7518
Number of pages8
JournalEnvironmental Science and Technology
Issue number13
StatePublished - Jul 1 2014

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Chemistry(all)
  • Environmental Chemistry


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