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Community Structure and Microbial Activity of Sulfate Reducing Bacteria in Wastewater Biofilms and Mature Fine Tailings Analyzed by Microsensors and Molecular Biology Techniques Open Access


Other title
Molecular Biology
Sulfate Reducing Bacteria
Microbial Activity
Community Structure
Type of item
Degree grantor
University of Alberta
Author or creator
Supervisor and department
Liu, Yang (Civil and Environmental Engineering)
Yu, Tong (Civil and Environmental Engineering)
Examining committee member and department
Xu, Zhenghe (Chemical and Material Engineering)
Davies, Evan (Civil and Environmental Engineering)
Li, Baikun (Sustainable Environmental Engineering)
Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering
Environmental Engineering
Date accepted
Graduation date
Doctor of Philosophy
Degree level
Sulfate reducing bacteria (SRB) play a significant role in complex microbial environments such as wastewater biofilms and mature fine tailings (MFT). A unique characteristic of these complex microbial environments is that stratified structure containing both oxic and anoxic zones could be formed; the anoxic zones were expected to provide microenvironment for the growth and function of SRB. SRB utilize sulfate as a terminal electron acceptor during dissimilatory sulfate reduction for the degradation of organic compounds. However, hydrogen sulfide (H2S) gas is generated during the biological sulfate reduction process. The produced toxic H2S itself is one of the concerns; in addition, the generated H2S leads to an increase in oxygen (O2) consumption due to the internal re-oxidation of H2S. To address the SRB problem in municipal wastewater, in MFT, and in oil sands process-affected wastewater (OSPW) generated from the industrial extraction of bitumen, the functional diversity and in situ activity of SRB were investigated in O2 based membrane aerated biofilm (MAB), MFT, and biofilm grown in OSPW. H2S microsensor was used for in situ measurements of SRB microbial activity. PCR-DGGE-FISH (polymerase chain reaction-denaturing gradient gel eletrophoresis-fluroscence in situ hybridization) and DGGE-qPCR were applied to investigate the functional diversity and abundance of SRB in biofilms and MFT, respectively. In the MAB sample, the O2 concentration profile in MAB revealed the presence of oxic and anoxic zones. The H2S concentration profile showed that H2S was produced in the upper region of the biofilm and penetrated 285 µm below the interface between biofilm and bulk liquid, indicating a high activity of SRB in this region. DGGE of the PCR-amplified dissimilatory sulfite reductase subunit β (dsrB) gene and FISH showed an uneven spatial distribution of SRB communities in terms of functional diversity and biomass. The maximum SRB biomass was located in the upper biofilm. In the MFT sample, a higher diversity of SRB was present and more H2S was produced in gypsum amended MFT than in unamended MFT. Based on the combined techniques, a higher sulfate reduction activity in gypsum amended MFT than in unamended MFT was indicated; in addition, more H2S was produced in the deeper regions of the MFT samples. In the OSPW biofilm sample, multispecies biofilm in OSPW was developed on engineered biocarriers and was capable of simultaneous removal of chemical oxidation demand (COD), sulfate, and nitrogen from OSPW. H2S was observed in the deeper anoxic zone from around 750 μm to 1000 μm below the interface, revealing in situ sulfate reduction in the deeper zone of the stratified biofilm.
Permission is hereby granted to the University of Alberta Libraries to reproduce single copies of this thesis and to lend or sell such copies for private, scholarly or scientific research purposes only. Where the thesis is converted to, or otherwise made available in digital form, the University of Alberta will advise potential users of the thesis of these terms. The author reserves all other publication and other rights in association with the copyright in the thesis and, except as herein before provided, neither the thesis nor any substantial portion thereof may be printed or otherwise reproduced in any material form whatsoever without the author's prior written permission.
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