Modelling the competition of planktonic and sessile aerobic heterotrophs for complementary nutrients in biofilm reactor

T. Lu*, P. E. Saikaly, Daniel B. Oerther

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contributionpeer-review

6 Scopus citations


A comprehensive, simplified microbial biofilm model was developed to evaluate the impact of bioreactor operating parameters on changes in microbial population abundance. Biofilm simulations were conducted using three special cases: fully penetrated, internal mass transfer resistance and external mass transfer resistance. The results of model simulations showed that for certain operating conditions, competition for growth limiting nutrients generated oscillations in the abundance of planktonic and sessile microbial populations. These oscillations resulted in the violation of the competitive exclusion principle where the number of microbial populations was greater than the number of growth limiting nutrients. However, the operating conditions which impacted microbial community diversity were different for the three special cases. Comparing the results of model simulations for dispersed-growth, biofilms and bioflocs showed that oscillations and microbial community diversity were a function of competition as well as other key features of the ecosystem. The significance of the current study is that it is the first to examine competition as a mechanism for controlling microbial community diversity in biofilm reactors.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationBiofilm Systems VI
EditorsM.C.M. Loosdrecht, C. Picioreau
Number of pages9
StatePublished - 2007
Externally publishedYes

Publication series

NameWater Science and Technology
ISSN (Print)0273-1223


  • Aerobic heterotroph
  • Competition
  • Model
  • Oscillations

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Engineering
  • Water Science and Technology


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