Lab-scale reactors are commonly used to simulate full-scale plants as they permit the effects of defined experimental perturbations to be evaluated. Ideally, lab- and full-scale reactors should possess similar microbial populations. To determine this we compared the diversity of the β-proteobacterial autotrophic ammonia-oxidising bacteria (AOB) in a full-scale and lab-scale biological aerated filter (BAF) using PCR with AOB selective primers combined with denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis (DGGE). PCR amplified 16S rRNA gene fragments from the nitrification unit of the lab-and full-scale BAF were subjected to cloning and sequencing to determine the phylogenetic affiliation of the AOB. A high degree of comparability between the lab-and full-scale BAF was observed with respect to AOB populations. However minor differences were apparent. The importance of these minor constituents in the overall performance of the reactor is unknown. Nonetheless the lab-scale reactor in this study did appear to reflect the dominant AOB community within the full-scale equivalent.

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