Phenol-degrading aerobic granules were cultivated in a sequencing batch reactor with an influent phenol concentration of 500 mg l−1. Eight strains were isolated from aerobic granules to characterize the functional redundancy of the microbial community in the granules. The specific oxygen utilization kinetics show the eight strains possessed different phenol-degrading activities, with half-saturation constants (Ks) ranging from 0.4 to 70.5 mg phenol l−1. Two isolates belonging to dominant populations expressed differing functions. The first strain was linked to the function of phenol degradation as this strain has the highest phenol-degrading ability among all isolates, while the second strain was linked to the maintenance of the granule structure because of its strong self-flocculation activity. This study could be used to exploit the granule-based system for treating high-strength wastewaters.

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