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Hydrocarbon biodegradation and soil microbial community response to repeated oil exposure

Greenwood, P.F., Wibrow, S., George, S.J. and Tibbett, M. (2009) Hydrocarbon biodegradation and soil microbial community response to repeated oil exposure. Organic Geochemistry, 40 (3). pp. 293-300.

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Bioremediation strategies continue to be developed to mitigate the environmental impact of petroleum hydrocarbon contamination. This study investigated the ability of soil microbiota, adapted by prior exposure, to biodegrade petroleum. Soils from Barrow Is. (W. Australia), a class A nature reserve and home to Australia’s largest onshore oil field, were exposed to Barrow production oil (50 ml/kg soil) and incubated (25 °C) for successive phases of 61 and 100 days. Controls in which oil was not added at Phase I or II were concurrently studied and all treatments were amended with the same levels of additional nutrient and water to promote microbial activity. Prior exposure resulted in accelerated biodegradation of most, but not all, hydrocarbon constituents in the production oil. Molecular biodegradation parameters measured using gas chromatography–mass spectrometry (GC–MS) showed that several aromatic constituents were degraded more slowly with increased oil history. The unique structural response of the soil microbial community was reflected by the response of different phospholipid fatty acid (PLFA) sub-classes (e.g. branched saturated fatty acids of odd or even carbon number) measured using a ratio termed Barrow PLFA ratio (B-PLFAr). The corresponding values of a previously proposed hydrocarbon degrading alteration index showed a negative correlation with hydrocarbon exposure, highlighting the site specificity of PLFA-based ratios and microbial community dynamics. B-PLFAr values increased with each Phase I and II addition of production oil. The different hydrocarbon biodegradation rates and responses of PLFA subclasses to the Barrow production oil probably relate to the relative bioavailability of production oil hydrocarbons. These different effects suggest preferred structural and functional microbial responses to anticipated contaminants may potentially be engineered by controlled pre-exposure to the same or closely related substrates. The bioremediation of soils freshly contaminated with petroleum could benefit from the addition of exhaustively bioremediated soils rich in biota primed for the impacting hydrocarbons.

Item Type: Journal Article
Publisher: Elsevier
Copyright: © 2009 Elsevier Ltd.
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