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How Resilient Are Microbial Communities To Temperature Changes During Composting

J. Cooper, J. G. Anderson, C. Campbell
Published 2002 · Environmental Science

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The resilience of compost systems to perturbation is usually attributed to the highly active and diverse microbial population. Composting is characterized by distinct temperature changes that are associated with a succession of microbial communities adapted to the prevailing temperature. The temperature fluctuations are spatially and temporally variable. The transition between mesophilic and thermophilic communities can result in loss of degradation efficiency. We tested the resilience of microbial communities to temperature fluctuations in laboratory reactors containing tree bark and pulverized wood amended with pot ale liquor, a waste by-product of the whisky manufacturing process. The laboratory reactors were operated in fixed temperature mode at 50°C, 35°C, and 20°C, in three replicates of each treatment, from which COD, suspended solids, BOD and pH of the resultant leachate were monitored on a daily basis. After running at fixed temperatures for 45 days, the reactors, initially operated at 50, 35 and 20°C, were switched to 20, 50 and 35°C, respectively. A further temperature switch was made after 90 days so that, at the conclusion of the experiment after 135 days, each triplicate set of incubators had experienced a 45-day period at each of the three temperature settings.
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