Microalgal–Bacterial Flocs and Extracellular Polymeric Substances: Two Essential and Valuable Products of Integrated Algal Pond Systems

  • Taobat A. Jimoh
  • M. Olajide Keshinro
  • Keith A. CowanEmail author


The integrated algal pond system (IAPS) is a passive wastewater treatment technology that can be used to remediate liquid waste from domestic, industrial and agricultural sources. The system exploits the mutualistic interaction between microalgae and bacteria to generate water of a quality suitable for discharge and/or reuse. During the treatment process, biomass in the form of microalgal–bacterial flocs (MaB-flocs) is generated, and this can be harvested and beneficiated in downstream processing. Here, we review literature on MaB-floc and extracellular polymeric substance (EPS) formation and discuss how essential microalgal–bacterial mutualism is at effecting IAPS-based wastewater treatment. Aggregation of microalgae and bacteria into MaB-flocs is clearly an outcome of EPS production by these microorganisms and arises for purposes of chemical and developmental interaction, protection, communication, aggregation and adhesion. The polymeric compounds which form the scaffold of this extracellular matrix comprise polysaccharides, proteins, uronic acid and nucleic acid. Natural EPS can be used as bioflocculant in water purification and in the dewatering and settling of sludge and is therefore an ideal natural replacement for commercially available synthetic polymers. Additionally, EPS are considered high value and can be used in many commercial applications. Thus, and to ensure sustained MaB-floc production in IAPS-based wastewater treatment plants, it is important that correct levels of EPS are maintained to facilitate settling and biomass recovery. Furthermore, it is the associated environmental and operational conditions that most impact EPS production and in turn, MaB-floc formation, and quality of the final IAPS-treated water.


Extracellular polymeric substances Flocculation High rate algal oxidation ponds Integrated algae pond systems Microalgal–bacterial flocs Wastewater 



Advanced integrated wastewater pond system


Biological oxygen demand


Chemical oxygen demand


Extracellular polymeric substance


High rate algal oxidation ponds


Integrated algal pond system


Microalgal–bacterial flocs


Microalgal–bacterial aggregates


Quorum sensing


Total suspended solids



The research was funded by Rhodes University and a grant from the Water Research Commission (WRC) of South Africa through WRC Project No. 7164 awarded to A.K.C. of Rhodes University. T.A.J. and O.K. acknowledge receipt of doctoral bursaries from EBRU.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute for Environmental Biotechnology (EBRU)Rhodes UniversityMakhanda (Grahamstown)South Africa

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