High variations of methanogenic microorganisms drive full-scale anaerobic digestion process

Environ Int. 2019 May:126:543-551. doi: 10.1016/j.envint.2019.03.005. Epub 2019 Mar 7.


Anaerobic digestion is one of the most successful waste management strategies worldwide, wherein microorganisms play an essential role in reducing organic pollutants and producing renewable energy. However, variations of microbial community in full-scale anaerobic digesters, particularly functional groups relevant to biogas production, remain elusive. Here, we examined microbial community in a year-long monthly time series of 3 full-scale anaerobic digesters. We observed substantial diversification in community composition, with only a few abundant OTUs (e.g. Clostridiales, Anaerolineaceae and Methanosaeta) persistently present across different samples. Similarly, there were high variations in relative abundance of methanogenic archaea and methanogenic genes, which were positively correlated (r2 = 0.530, P < 0.001). Variations of methanogens explained 55.7% of biogas producing rates, much higher than the explanatory percentage of environmental parameters (16.4%). Hydrogenotrophic methanogens, especially abundant Methanomicrobiales taxa, were correlated with biogas production performance (r = 0.665, P < 0.001) and nearly all methanogenic genes (0.430 < r < 0.735, P < 0.012). Given that methanogenic archaea or genes are well established for methanogenesis, we conclude that high variations in methanogenic traits (e.g. taxa or genes) are responsible for biogas production variations in full-scale anaerobic digesters.

Keywords: Anaerobic digestion; Methane production; Succession; Temporal stability.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Anaerobiosis
  • Archaea / genetics
  • Archaea / metabolism*
  • Bacteria / genetics
  • Bacteria / metabolism*
  • Biofuels*
  • Bioreactors / microbiology*
  • Genes, Archaeal
  • Genes, Bacterial
  • Methane / metabolism*
  • Microbiota*
  • Waste Disposal, Fluid


  • Biofuels
  • Methane