Alkaline pretreatment has the potential to enhance the anaerobic digestion of lignocellulosic biomass to biogas. However, the elevated pH of the substrate may require alkalitolerant microbial communities for an effective digestion. Three mixed anaerobic lignocellulolytic cultures were enriched from sediments from two soda lakes with wheat straw as substrate under alkaline (pH 9) mesophilic (37°C) and thermophilic (55°C) conditions. The gas production of the three cultures ceased after 4 to 5 weeks, and the produced gas was composed of carbon dioxide and methane. The main liquid intermediates were acetate and propionate. The physiological behavior of the cultures was stable even after several transfers. The enrichment process was also followed by molecular fingerprinting (terminal restriction fragment length polymorphism) of the bacterial 16S rRNA gene and of the mcrA/mrtA functional gene for methanogens. The main shift in the microbial community composition occurred between the sediment samples and the first enrichment, whereas the structure was stable in the following transfers. The bacterial communities mainly consisted of Sphingobacteriales, Clostridiales and Spirochaeta, but differed at genus level. Methanothermobacter and Methanosarcina genera and the order Methanomicrobiales were predominant methanogenes in the obtained cultures. Additionally, single cellulolytic microorganisms were isolated from enrichment cultures and identified as members of the alkaliphilic or alkalitolerant genera. The results show that anaerobic alkaline habitats harbor diverse microbial communities, which can degrade lignocellulose effectively and are therefore a potential resource for improving anaerobic digestion.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology