Global Diversity and Biogeography of Bacterial Communities in Wastewater Treatment Plants


Linwei Wu, Dalian Ning, Bing Zhang, Yong Li, Ping Zhang, Xiaoyu Shan, Qiuting Zhang, Mathew Robert Brown, Zhenxin Li, Joy D. Van Nostrand, Fangqiong Ling, Naikia Xiao, Ya Zhang, Julia Vierheilig, George F. Wells, Yunfeng Yang, Ye Deng, Qichao Tu, Aijie Wang, Global Water Microbiome Consortium, Tong Zhang, Zhili He, Jurg Keller, Per H. Nielsen, Pedro J. J. Alvarez, Craigs S. Criddle, Michael Wagner, James M. Tiedje, Qiang He, Thomas P. Cutis, David A Stahl, Lisa Alvarez-Cohen, Bruce E. Rittmann, Xianghua Wen, Jizhong Zhou


Microorganisms in wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs) are essential for water purification to protect public and environmental health. However, the diversity of microorganisms and the factors that control it are poorly understood. Using a systematic global-sampling effort, we analysed the 16S ribosomal RNA gene sequences from ~1,200 activated sludge samples taken from 269 WWTPs in 23 countries on 6 continents. Our analyses revealed that the global activated sludge bacterial communities contain ~1 billion bacterial phylotypes with a Poisson lognormal diversity distribution. Despite this high diversity, activated sludge has a small, global core bacterial community (n = 28 operational taxonomic units) that is strongly linked to activated sludge performance. Meta-analyses with global datasets associate the activated sludge microbiomes most closely to freshwater populations. In contrast to macroorganism diversity, activated sludge bacterial communities show no latitudinal gradient. Furthermore, their spatial turnover is scale-dependent and appears to be largely driven by stochastic processes (dispersal and drift), although deterministic factors (temperature and organic input) are also important. Our findings enhance our mechanistic understanding of the global diversity and biogeography of activated sludge bacterial communities within a theoretical ecology framework and have important implications for microbial ecology and wastewater treatment processes.

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Wu L, Ning D, Zhang B, Li Y, Zhang P, Shan X, Zhang Q, Brown M, Li Z, Van Nostrand JD, Ling F, Xiao N, Zhang Y, Vierheilig J, Wells GF, Yang Y, Deng Y, Tu Q, Wang A, Acevedo D, Agullo-Barcelo M, Alvarez PJJ, Alvarez-Cohen L, Andersen GL, de Araujo JC, Boehnke K, Bond P, Bott CB, Bovio P, Brewster RK, Bux F, Cabezas A, Cabrol L, Chen S, Criddle CS, Deng Y, Etchebehere C, Ford A, Frigon D, Gómez JS, Griffin JS, Gu AZ, Habagil M, Hale L, Hardeman SD, Harmon M, Horn H, Hu Z, Jauffur S, Johnson DR, Keller J, Keucken A, Kumari S, Leal CD, Lebrun LA, Lee J, Lee M, Lee ZMP, Li Y, Li Z, Li M, Li X, Ling F, Liu Y, Luthy RG, Mendonça-Hagler LC, de Menezes FGR, Meyers AJ, Mohebbi A, Nielsen PH, Ning D, Oehmen A, Palmer A, Parameswaran P, Park J, Patsch D, Reginatto V, de los Reyes FL, Rittmann BE, Robles AN, Rossetti S, Shan X, Sidhu J, Sloan WT, Smith K, de Sousa OV, Stahl DA, Stephens K, Tian R, Tiedje JM, Tooker NB, Tu Q, Van Nostrand JD, De los Cobos Vasconcelos D, Vierheilig J, Wagner M, Wakelin S, Wang A, Wang B, Weaver JE, Wells GF, West S, Wilmes P, Woo S-G, Wu L, Wu J-H, Wu L, Xi C, Xiao N, Xu M, Yan T, Yang Y, Yang M, Young M, Yue H, Zhang B, Zhang P, Zhang Q, Zhang Y, Zhang T, Zhang Q, Zhang W, Zhang Y, Zhou H, Zhou J, Wen X, Curtis TP, He Q, He Z, Brown M, Zhang T, He Z, Keller J, Nielsen PH, Alvarez PJJ, Criddle CS, Wagner M, Tiedje JM, He Q, Curtis TP, Stahl DA, Alvarez-Cohen L, Rittmann BE, Wen X, Zhou J, Global Water Microbiome Consortium. 2019. Global diversity and biogeography of bacterial communities in wastewater treatment plants. Nature Microbiology 10.1038/s41564-019-0426-5.