Stability of the Anaerobic Digestion Process during Switch from Parallel to Serial Operation—A Microbiome Study

Andreas Walter, Maria Hanser, Christian Ebner, Heribert Insam, Rudolf Markt, Sebastian Hupfauf, Maraike Probst

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Anaerobic digestion is a common procedure of treating sewage sludge at wastewater treatment plants. However, plants differ in terms of the number of reactors and, in case of several reactors, their operation mode. To confirm the flexibility of well adapted, full-scale anaerobic digestion plants, we monitored the physicochemical process conditions of two continuously stirred tank reactors over one hydraulic retention time before and after the operation mode was switched from parallel to serial operation. To investigate changes in the involved microbiota, we applied Illumina amplicon sequencing. The rapid change between operation modes did not affect the process performance. In both parallel and serial operation mode, we detected a highly diverse microbial community, in which Bacteroidetes, Firmicutes, Proteobacteria and Claocimonetes were high in relative abundance. While a prominent core microbiome was maintained in both configurations, changes in the involved microbiota were evident at a lower taxonomical level comparing both reactors and operation modes. The most prominent methanogenic Euryarchaeota detected were Methanosaeta and cand. Methanofastidiosum. Volatile fatty acids were degraded immediately in both reactors, suggesting that the second reactor could be used to produce methane on demand, by inserting easily degradable substrates.

Original languageEnglish
Article number7161
JournalSustainability (Switzerland)
Issue number12
StatePublished - 1 Jun 2022
Externally publishedYes


  • 16S rRNA amplicon sequencing
  • anaerobic digestion
  • biogas production
  • full-scale reactor
  • microbial community
  • wastewater treatment plant

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Computer Science (miscellaneous)
  • Environmental Science (miscellaneous)
  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Energy Engineering and Power Technology
  • Hardware and Architecture
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law
  • Computer Networks and Communications
  • Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment


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