The spatial distributions and activities of ammonia oxidizing bacteria (AOB) and polyphosphate accumulating organisms (PAOs) were investigated for a novel laboratory-scale sequencing batch pumped-flow biofilm reactor (PFBR) system that was operated for carbon, nitrogen and phosphor-us removal. The PFBR comprised of two 16.5 l tanks (Reactors I and 2), each with a biofilm module of 2 m(2) surface area. To facilitate the growth of AOB and PAOs in the reactor biofilms, the influent wastewater was held in Reactor 1 under stagnant un-aerated conditions for 6 h after feeding, and was then pumped over and back between Reactors 1 and 2 for 12 h, creating aerobic conditions in the two reactors during this period; as a consequence, the biofilm in Reactor 2 was in an aerobic environment for almost all the 18.2 h operating cycle. A combination of micro-sensor measurements, molecular techniques, batch experiments and reactor studies were carried out to analyse the performance of the PFBR system. After 100 days operation at a filtered chemical oxygen demand (CODf) loading rate of 3.46 g/m(2) per day, the removal efficiencies were 95% CODf, 87% TNf and 74% TPf. While the PFBR microbial community structure and function were found to be highly diversified with substantial AOB and PAO populations, about 70% of the phosphorus release potential and almost 100% of the nitrification potential were located in Reactors 1 and 2, respectively. Co-enrichment of AOB and PAOs was realized in the Reactor 2 biofilm, where molecular analyses revealed unexpected microbial distributions at micro-scale, with population peaks of AOB in a 100-250 mu m deep sub-surface zone and of PAOs in the 0-150 mu m surface zone. The micro-distribution of AOB coincided with the position of the nitrification peak identified during micro-sensor analyses. The study demonstrates that enrichment of PAOs can be realized in a constant or near constant aerobic biofilm environment. Furthermore, the findings suggest that when successful co-enrichment of AOB and PAOs occur in biofilm environments, such as in the PFBR system, they do so at different zone depths in the biofilm. (C) 2009 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.