Various aspects of biofilm adaptation to sulfate reduction in horizontal-flow anaerobic immobilized biomass (HAIB) reactors subjected to increasing sulfate concentrations and different COD/sulfate ratios are presented and discussed. Four bench-scale HAIB reactors filled with vegetal carbon (R1 and R2) and polyurethane foam matrices (R3 and R4) were utilized. Influent sulfate concentrations ranging from 500 to 3000 mg/L were applied at COD/sulfate ratios ranging from 5.0 to 1.7. Reactors R1 and R4 were operated with higher sulfate loads than those applied to R2 and R3. For the same COD/sulfate ratio, the highest sulfate reduction efficiency (∼80%) was displayed by the vegetal carbon reactor (R2) subjected to low sulfate loads. According to the results of our molecular biology analyses, the different support materials provided different biomass colonization conditions. The lowest diversity of sulfate-reducing bacteria was found in the HAIB filled with polyurethane foam matrices operating with high sulfate loads.

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