Molecular biology techniques provide valuable insights in the investigation of microbial dynamics and evolution. Denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis (DGGE) analysis is one of the most popular methods which have been used in bioprocess assessment. Most of the anaerobic digestion models consider several microbial populations as state variables. However, the difficulty of measuring individual species concentrations may cause inaccurate model predictions. The integration of microbial data and ecosystem modelling is currently a challenging issue for improved system control. A novel procedure that combines common experimental measurements, DGGE, and image analysis is presented in this study in order to provide a preliminary estimation of the actual concentration of the dominant bacterial ribotypes in a bioreactor, for further use as a variable in mathematical modelling of the bioprocess. This approach was applied during the start-up of a continuous anaerobic bioreactor for hydrogen production. The experimental concentration data were used for determining the kinetic parameters of each species, by using a multi-species chemostat-model. The model was able to reproduce the global trend of substrate and biomass concentrations during the reactor start-up, and predicted in an acceptable way the evolution of each ribotype concentration, depicting properly specific ribotype selection and extinction.

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