Nitrogen recovery by a halophilic ammonium-assimilating microbiome: A new strategy for saline wastewater treatment

Mengru Zhang, Fei Han, Yuke Li, Zhe Liu, Hao Chen, Zhe Li, Qian Li, Weizhi Zhou*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)


Wastewater with high salinity is one of the major challenges for conventional wastewater treatment. Although nitrogen management is vital for wastewater treatment, efficient strategies for nitrogen recovery and removal from saline wastewater remain challenging. Here we propose microbial ammonium assimilation to achieve efficient nitrogen removal and recovery into biomass from saline wastewater without gaseous nitrogen release opposite to the conventional wastewater treatment,. We find one marine bacterium Psychrobacter aquimaris A4N01 with the ability to form sedimentary granular biofilms that can be engineered to construct an efficient ammonium-assimilating microbiome followed the bottom-up design. We demonstrate that the microbiome removes ammonium through assimilation without reactive nitrogen intermediates and gaseous nitrogen emission, according to the functional gene abundance and nitrogen balance. More than 80% of ammonium, total nitrogen and total phosphorus are removed and recovered into biomass, with more than 98% of COD removed from saline wastewater. As one prototypic microbe to form ammonium-assimilating biofilms, Psychrobacter aquimaris A4N01 plays key role in nutrient metabolism and microbiome construction. We stress that ammonium assimilation with a clear and short pathway is a promising method in future saline wastewater treatment and sustainable nitrogen management.
Original languageEnglish
Article number117832
Number of pages10
JournalWater Research
Publication statusPublished - 2021


  • Ammonium assimilation
  • Ammonium-assimilating microbiome
  • Nutrient recovery
  • Saline wastewater treatment


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