In environments where the amount of electron acceptors is insufficient for complete breakdown of organic matter, methane is formed as the major reduced end product. In such methanogenic environments organic acids are degraded by syntrophic consortia of acetogenic bacteria and methanogenic archaea. Hydrogen consumption by methanogens is essential for acetogenic bacteria to convert organic acids to acetate and hydrogen. Several syntrophic cocultures growing on propionate and butyrate have been described. These syntrophic fatty acid-degrading consortia are affected by the presence of sulfate. When sulfate is present sulfate-reducing bacteria compete with methanogenic archaea for hydrogen and acetate, and with acetogenic bacteria for propionate and butyrate. Sulfate-reducing bacteria easily outcompete methanogens for hydrogen, but the presence of acetate as carbon source may influence the outcome of the competition. By contrast, acetoclastic methanogens can compete reasonably well with acetate-degrading sulfate reducers. Sulfate-reducing bacteria grow much faster on propionate and butyrate than syntrophic consortia.

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