The diversity and spatial distribution of bacteria in a lab-scale biotrickling filter treating high loads of hydrogen sulfide (H2S) were investigated. Diversity and community structure were studied by terminal-restriction fragment length polymorphism (T-RFLP). A 16S rRNA gene clone library was established. Near Full-length 16S rRNA gene sequences were obtained, and clones were clustered into 24 operational taxonomic units (OTUs). Nearly 74% and 26% of the clones were affiliated with the phyla Proteobacteria and Bacteroidetes, respectively. Beta-, epsilon- and gamma-proteobacteria accounted for 15, 9 and 48%, respectively. Around 45% of the sequences retrieved were affiliated to bacteria of the sulfur cycle including Thiothrix spp., Thiobacillus spp. and Sulfurimonas denitrificans. Sequences related to Thiothrix lacustris accounted for a 38%. Rarefaction curve demonstrated that clone library constructed can be sufficient to describe the vast majority of the bacterial diversity of this reactor operating under strict conditions (2,000 ppmv of H2S). A spatial distribution of bacteria was found along the length of the reactor by means of the T-RFLP technique. Although aerobic species were predominant along the reactor, facultative anaerobes had a major relative abundance in the inlet part of the reactor, where the sulfide to oxygen ratio is higher.

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