Association of biodiversity with the rates of micropollutant biotransformations among full-scale wastewater treatment plant communities

David R. Johnson, Damian E. Helbling, Tae Kwon Lee, Joonhong Park, Kathrin Fenner, Hans Peter E. Kohler, Martin Ackermann

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Biodiversities can differ substantially among different wastewater treatment plant (WWTP) communities. Whether differences in biodiversity translate into differences in the provision of particular ecosystem services, however, is under active debate. Theoretical considerations predict that WWTP communities with more biodiversity are more likely to contain strains that have positive effects on the rates of particular ecosystem functions, thus resulting in positive associations between those two variables. However, if WWTP communities were sufficiently biodiverse to nearly saturate the set of possible positive effects, then positive associations would not occur between biodiversity and the rates of particular ecosystem functions. To test these expectations, we measured the taxonomic biodiversity, functional biodiversity, and rates of 10 different micropollutant biotransformations for 10 full-scale WWTP communities. We have demonstrated that biodiversity is positively associated with the rates of specific, but not all, micropollutant biotransformations. Thus, one cannot assume whether or how biodiversity will associate with the rate of any particular micropollutant biotransformation. We have further demonstrated that the strongest positive association is between biodiversity and the collective rate of multiple micropollutant biotransformations. Thus, more biodiversity is likely required to maximize the collective rates of multiple micropollutant biotransformations than is required to maximize the rate of any individual micropollutant biotransformation. We finally provide evidence that the positive associations are stronger for rare micropollutant biotransformations than for common micropollutant biotransformations. Together, our results are consistent with the hypothesis that differences in biodiversity can indeed translate into differences in the provision of particular ecosystem services by full-scale WWTP communities.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)666-675
Number of pages10
JournalApplied and Environmental Microbiology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2015 Jan 1


All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Biotechnology
  • Food Science
  • Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology
  • Ecology

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