The phylogenetic diversity of a nitrifying bacterial community of two types of nitrifying biofilms, a domestic wastewater biofilm and an autotrophic nitrifying biofilm grown on rotating disk reactors (RDR), was characterized by 16S ribosomal DNA (rDNA)-cloning analysis. Thereafter, successional development of nitrifying the bacterial community within both biofilms was visualized in situ by fluorescent in situ hybridization (FISH) with a set of fluorescently labeled 16S rRNA-targeted DNA probes. In situ hybridization revealed that Nitrosomonas ureae was the numerically dominant species of the ammonia-oxidizing population in the domestic wastewater biofilm and that a population shift from N. urea to N. europaea and N. eutropha occurred when the culture medium was switched to the synthetic media from the domestic wastewater. After reaching the steady-state condition, microprofiles of NH4+, NO2, NO3, and O2 in the biofilms were measured by use of microsensors, and the spatial distributions of in situ nitrifying activities were determined. The relationship between the spatial organization of nitrifying bacterial populations and the in situ activity of these populations within the biofilms was discussed. Microelectrode measurements revealed that the active ammonia-oxidizing zone was vertically separated from the active nitrite-oxidizing zone. This vertical separation became more evident with increase of the substrate C/N ratio, leading to deterioration of nitrification efficiency. The combined use of these techniques made it possible to relate in situ nitrifying activity directly to the occurrence of nitrifying bacterial populations.

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