Until now, only few attempts have been made to assess biofilm models simulating microenvironments in a biofilm. As a first step, we compare the microenvironment observed in a membrane aerated biofilm (MAB) to that derived from a two-dimensional computational model with individual ammonia oxidizing bacteria (AOB) and nitrite oxidizing bacteria (NOB) embedded in a continuum EPS matrix. Gradients of oxygen were determined by means of microelectrodes. The change in nitrifying bacterial populations with the biofilm depth was quantified using fluorescence in situ hybridization (FISH) in combination with a confocal laser scanning microscopy (CLSM). Microelectrode measurements revealed that oxic and anoxic or anaerobic regions exist within the MAB. The oxygen profile predicted by the model showed good agreement with that obtained by microelectrode measurements. The oxic part of the biofilm was dominated by NSO190 probe-hybridized AOB, which formed relatively large clusters of cells directly on the membrane surface, and by the NOB belonging to genus Nitrobacter sp. On the other hand, NOB belonging to genus Nitrospira sp. were abundant at the oxic-anoxic interface. The model prediction regarding AOB and Nitrobacter sp. distribution was consistent with the experimental counterpart. Measurements of AOB cluster size distribution showed that colonies are slightly larger adjacent to the membrane than at the inner part of the biofilm. The sizes predicted by the current model are larger than those obtained in the experiment, leading to the arguments that some factors not contained in the model would affect the cluster size.

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