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Volume 2016 (2016), Article ID 4089684, 10 pages
Research Article

Archaea and Bacteria Acclimate to High Total Ammonia in a Methanogenic Reactor Treating Swine Waste

1Swette Center for Environmental Biotechnology, The Biodesign Institute, Arizona State University, P.O. Box 875701, Tempe, AZ 85287-5701, USA
2School of Sustainable Engineering and the Built Environment, Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ, USA
3Department of Civil Engineering, Kansas State University, 2118 Fiedler Hall, Manhattan, KS 66506, USA

Received 10 June 2016; Accepted 11 August 2016

Academic Editor: Jessica A. Smith

Copyright © 2016 Sofia Esquivel-Elizondo et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Inhibition by ammonium at concentrations above 1000 mgN/L is known to harm the methanogenesis phase of anaerobic digestion. We anaerobically digested swine waste and achieved steady state COD-removal efficiency of around 52% with no fatty-acid or H2 accumulation. As the anaerobic microbial community adapted to the gradual increase of total ammonia-N (NH3-N) from to  mg/L, the Bacterial and Archaeal communities became less diverse. Phylotypes most closely related to hydrogenotrophic Methanoculleus (36.4%) and Methanobrevibacter (11.6%), along with acetoclastic Methanosaeta (29.3%), became the most abundant Archaeal sequences during acclimation. This was accompanied by a sharp increase in the relative abundances of phylotypes most closely related to acetogens and fatty-acid producers (Clostridium, Coprococcus, and Sphaerochaeta) and syntrophic fatty-acid Bacteria (Syntrophomonas, Clostridium, Clostridiaceae species, and Cloacamonaceae species) that have metabolic capabilities for butyrate and propionate fermentation, as well as for reverse acetogenesis. Our results provide evidence countering a prevailing theory that acetoclastic methanogens are selectively inhibited when the total ammonia-N concentration is greater than ~1000 mgN/L. Instead, acetoclastic and hydrogenotrophic methanogens coexisted in the presence of total ammonia-N of ~2000 mgN/L by establishing syntrophic relationships with fatty-acid fermenters, as well as homoacetogens able to carry out forward and reverse acetogenesis.