Metabolic and phylogenetic analysis of microbial communities during phytoremediation of soil contaminated with weathered hydrocarbons and heavy metals

Marja R T Palmroth, Perttu E P Koskinen, Anna H Kaksonen, Uwe Münster, John Pichtel, Jaakko A Puhakka
Biodegradation 2007, 18 (6): 769-82
In the current study, the microbial ecology of weathered hydrocarbon and heavy metal contaminated soil undergoing phytoremediation was studied. The relationship of functional diversity, measured as carbon source utilisation in Biolog plates and extracellular enzymatic activities, and genetic diversity of bacteria was evaluated. Denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis was used for community analyses at the species level. Bulk soil and rhizosphere soil from pine and poplar plantations were analysed separately to determine if the plant rhizosphere impacted hydrocarbon degradation. Prevailing microbial communities in the field site were both genetically and metabolically diverse. Furthermore, both tree rhizosphere and fertilisation affected the compositions of these communities and increased activities of extracellular aminopeptidases. In addition, the abundance of alkane hydroxylase and naphthalene dioxygenase genes in the communities was low, but the prevalence of these genes was increased by the addition of bioavailable hydrocarbons. Tree rhizosphere communities had greater hydrocarbon degradation potential than those of bulk soil. Hydrocarbon utilising communities were dominated generally by the species Ralstonia eutropha and bacteria belonging to the genus Burkholderia. Despite the presence of viable hydrocarbon-degrading microbiota, decomposition of hydrocarbons from weathered hydrocarbon contaminated soil over four years, regardless of the presence of vegetation, was low in unfertilised soil. Compost addition enhanced the removal of hydrocarbons.

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