Microbial examination of anaerobic sludge adaptation to animal slurry
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The objective of this study was to evaluate changes in the microbial population of anaerobic sludge digesters during the adaptation to pig slurry (PS) using quantitative real-time polymerase chain reaction (qPCR) and qualitative scanning electron microscopy (SEM). Additionally, the relationship between microbial parameters and sludge physicochemical composition and methane yield was examined. Results showed that the addition of PS to an unadapted thermophilic anaerobic digester caused an increase in volatile fatty acids (VFA) concentration, a decrease in removal efficiency and CH4 yield. Additionally, increases in total bacteria and total archaea were observed using qPCR. Scanning electron micrographs provided a general overview of the sludge's cell morphology, morphological diversity and degree of organic matter degradation. A change in microbial morphotypes from homogeneous cell morphologies to a higher morphological diversity, similar to that observed in PS, was observed with the addition of PS by SEM. Therefore, the combination of qPCR and SEM allowed expanding the knowledge about the microbial adaptation to animal slurry in thermophilic anaerobic digesters.