Microbial communities are crucial to the effectiveness and stability of bioremediation systems treating acid mine drainage (AMD); however, little research has addressed how they correlate to system performance under changing environmental conditions. In this study, 16S rRNA gene sequencing and quantitative PCR (qPCR) were used to characterize microbial communities within different substrate combinations of crab shell (CS) and spent mushroom compost (SMC) and their association with chemical performance in pilot-scale vertical flow ponds (VFPs) treating high risk AMD in central Pennsylvania over 643 days of operation. As compared to a control containing SMC, VFPs containing CS sustained higher alkalinity, higher sulfate-reducing rates, and more thorough metals removal (>90% for Fe and Al, >50% for Mn and Zn). Correspondingly, CS VFPs supported the growth of microorganisms in key functional groups at increasing abundance and diversity over time, especially more diverse sulfate-reducing bacteria. Through changing seasonal and operational conditions over almost two years, the relative abundance of the core phyla shifted in all reactors, but the smallest changes in functional gene copies were observed in VFPs containing CS. These results suggest that the high diversity and stability of microbial communities associated with CS are consistent with effective AMD treatment.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Environmental Engineering
- Environmental Chemistry
- Waste Management and Disposal
- Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis