Scum is formed by the adsorption of long-chain fatty acids (LCFAs) onto biomass surface in anaerobic digestion of oily substrates. Since scum is a recalcitrant substrate to be digested, it is disposed via landfilling or incineration, which results in biomass washout and a decrease in methane yield. The microbes contributing to scum degradation are unclear. This study aimed to investigate the cardinal microorganisms in anaerobic scum digestion. We pre-incubated a sludge with scum to enrich scum-degrading microbes. Using this sludge, a 1.3- times higher methane conversion rate (73%) and a faster LCFA degradation compared with control sludge were attained. Then, we analyzed the cardinal scum-degrading microbes in this pre-incubated sludge by changing the initial scum-loading rates. Increased 16S rRNA copy numbers for the syntrophic fatty-acid degrader Syntrophomonas and hydrogenotrophic methanogens were observed in scum high-loaded samples. 16S rRNA amplicon sequencing indicated that Syntrophomonas was the most abundant genus in all the samples. The amino-acid degrader Aminobacterium and hydrolytic genera such as Defluviitoga and Sporanaerobacter became more dominant as the scum-loading rate increased. Moreover, phylogenic analysis on Syntrophomonas revealed that Syntrophomonas palmitatica, which is capable of degrading LCFAs, related species became more dominant as the scumloading rate increased. These results indicate that a variety of microorganisms that degrade LCFAs, proteins, and sugars are involved in effective scum degradation.
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