This study describes the microbial community richness, -dynamics, and -organization of four full-scale anaerobic digesters during a time-course study of 45 days. The microbial community was analyzed using a Bacteria- and Archaea-targeting 16S rRNA gene-based Terminal-Restriction Fragment Length Polymorphism approach. Clustering analysis separated meso- and thermophilic reactors for both archaeal and bacterial communities. Regardless of the operating temperature, each installation possessed a distinct community profile. For both microbial domains, about 8 dominant terminal-restriction fragments could be observed, with a minimum of 4 and a maximum of 14. The bacterial community organization (a coefficient which describes the specific degree of evenness) showed a factor 2 more variation in the mesophilic reactors, compared with the thermophilic ones. The archaeal community structure of the mesophilic UASB reactor was found to be more stable. The community composition was highly dynamic for Bacteria and Archaea, with a rate of change between 20–50% per 15 days. This study illustrated that microbial communities in full-scale anaerobic digesters are unique to the installation and that community properties are dynamic. Converging complex microbial processes such as anaerobic digestion which rely on a multitude of microbial teams apparently can be highly dynamic.
Keywords: anaerobic liquefaction, biogas, microbial resource management, solid waste, T-RFLP