Sulfate-reducing bioreactors subjected to high sulfate loading rate or acidity: Variations in microbial consortia

Marja Salo (Corresponding Author), Malin Bomberg

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)


Sulfate-reducing bioreactors are used in e.g. the mining industry to remove sulfate and harmful metals from process waters. These bioreactors are expected to be run for extended periods of time and may experience variations in the influent quality, such as increasing sulfate loading rate and decrease in pH, while being expected to function optimally. In this study we followed the sulfate removal rate and variation in microbial communities over a period of up to 333 days in three different up-flow anaerobic sludge blanket (UASB) bioreactors being submitted to increasing sulfate loading rate or decreasing pH. Sodium lactate was used as the sole carbon source and electron donor. All three bioreactors contained highly diverse microbial communities containing archaea, fungi and bacteria. Sulfurospirillum and Desulfovibrio were the most prominent bacterial genera detected in the bioreactors receiving the highest sulfate loading rates, and the greatest relative abundance of methanogenic archaea and the fungal genus Cadophora coincided with the highest sulfate reduction rates. In contrast, Sulfuricurvum was dominant in the bioreactor receiving influent with alternating pH, but its relative abundance receded in response to low pH of the influent. All bioreactors showed excellent sulfate removal even under extreme conditions in addition to unique responses in the microbial communities under changing operational conditions. This shows that a high diversity in the microbial consortia in the bioreactors could make the sulfate removal process less sensitive to changing operational conditions, such as variations in influent sulfate loading rate and pH.

Original languageEnglish
Article number95
Number of pages12
JournalAMB Express
Publication statusPublished - 2022
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


  • Acidity
  • Biological sulfate reduction
  • Bioreactor
  • Microbial consortia
  • Sulfate loading rate


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