The population dynamics of activated sludge in a pilot plant with two activated sludge systems, both designed for enhanced biological phosphorus removal (EBPR), but one of them with (BNP) and the other without (BP) nitrogen removal, was monitored during a period of 2.5 years. The influent water to the pilot plant was periodically manipulated by external addition of phosphorus (P), acetate and glucose, respectively. The population dynamics and the in situ physiology were monitored by quantitative fluorescence in situ hybridization (FISH) and microautoradiography. Significant P removal was observed in both systems throughout the whole period, with significant increases of the P removal when substrates were dosed. The activated sludge in both systems contained large amounts of dense clusters of gram-negative, methylene-blue staining coccoid rods during the whole period. A large part of the clusters belonged to the β Proteobacteria, whereas the rest of the clusters belonged either to the Actinobacteria or to the α Proteobacteria. The relative abundance of Rhodocyclus-related bacteria in the activated sludge varied significantly in both systems during the whole period (from 6 to 18% in BNP, and from 4 to 28% in BP). However, no statistically significant correlation of the Rhodocyclus-related nor any of the other investigated bacterial groups to the P content of the activated sludge (correlation for all groups investigated was always < 0.5) was observed. A significant 33Pi uptake was observed by the β Proteobacteria (part of them Rhodocyclus-related, the identity of the rest unknown) and the Actinobacteria. However, not all of the Rhodocyclus-related bacteria showed 33Pi uptake. The P removal in the investigated plants is thus believed to be mediated by a mixed population consisting of a part of the Rhodocyclus-related bacteria, the Actinobacteria and other, yet unidentified bacteria.

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