The microbial ecology of nitrifying bacteria in various types of wastewater treatment processes and the dynamic response of the microbial ecology in biofilms were investigated using fluorescence in situ hybridization (FISH) with 16S rRNA-targeted oligonucleotide probes. Nitrifying bacteria were found to exhibit various organizational forms under different conditions of substrate composition and concentration. Ammonia-oxidizing bacteria were dominant in ammonia-rich inorganic wastewater, while heterotrophic bacteria and ammonia-oxidizing bacteria were localized at different positions in the biofilm in organic wastewater. The dynamics of the microbial ecology in the biofilm with regard to the spatial distribution of ammonia-oxidizing bacteria and heterotrophic bacteria caused by a gradual change in substrate composition was successfully monitored by FISH analysis.
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