Diversity of micro-organism communities in activated sludge have been analyzed by culture -dependent methods, which exclude the majority of endogenous microbes due to the selective nature of the media. Molecular and biochemical techniques have been evaluated, but they are time - consuming, complex and the results are difficult to interpret. Methods such as community level carbon source utilization patterns (i.e. Biolog) are easy to use and detect different patterns, which could be related to diversity and function, in this and other studies. Our aim was not to try and detect each and every metabolic reaction of all the individuals in the community, but the collective pattern for a specific community. Since, 1) a high species diversity should lead to a higher relative number of substrates utilized, because there are more possibilities and 2) upon dilution, some organisms will be lost (causing a decrease in species diversity) from the community, depending on their abundance and the relative contribution (perhaps only one metabolic reaction in the system), reducing the number of possibilities. The extent of the reduction of the possibilities upon dilution, should theoretically reflect something about the community structure. The key, therefore, lies in the interpretation of the results. The Biolog system unlike traditional culture - dependent methods, which are generally selective for the component of the community that has to be cultured, can reflect the activities of a broad range of bacteria. In this study the Biolog system was not considered as a culture - dependent method, but rather as a collection of metabolic tests (database) used for the purpose of generating a recognizable pattern for a specific community. Our hypothesis was that microbial community level carbon source utilization could be used to determine diversity and evenness in activated sludge systems. In our study we used activated sludge systems representative of an environment with a high species diversity and uneven distribution of species, indicated that upon dilution some of the substrates where no longer utilized due to the loss of some of the species.
Dissertation (MSc Agric (Microbiology))--University of Pretoria, 2006.