Petrogenic hydrocarbons represent the most commonly reported environmental contaminant in industrialised countries. In terms of remediating petrogenic contaminated hydrocarbons, finding sustainable non-invasive technologies represents an important goal. In this study, the effect of 4 types of plant residues on the bioremediation of aliphatic hydrocarbons was investigated in a 90day greenhouse experiment. The results showed that contaminated soil amended with different plant residues led to statistically significant increases in the utilisation rate of Total Petroleum Hydrocarbon (TPH) relative to control values. The maximum TPH reduction (up to 83% or 6800mgkg-1) occurred in soil mixed with pea straw, compared to a TPH reduction of 57% (4633mgkg-1) in control soil. A positive correlation (0.75) between TPH reduction rate and the population of hydrocarbon-utilising microorganisms was observed; a weaker correlation (0.68) was seen between TPH degradation and bacterial population, confirming that adding plant materials significantly enhanced both hydrocarbonoclastic and general microbial soil activities. Microbial community analysis using Denaturing Gradient Gel Electrophoresis (DGGE) showed that amending the contaminated soil with plant residues (e.g., pea straw) caused changes in the soil microbial structure, as observed using the Shannon diversity index; the diversity index increased in amended treatments, suggesting that microorganisms present on the dead biomass may become important members of the microbial community. In terms of specific hydrocarbonoclastic activity, the number of alkB gene copies in the soil microbial community increased about 300-fold when plant residues were added to contaminated soil. This study has shown that plant residues stimulate TPH degradation in contaminated soil through stimulation and perhaps addition to the pool of hydrocarbon-utilising microorganisms, resulting in a changed microbial structure and increased alkB gene copy numbers. These results suggest that pea straw in particular represents a low cost, effective treatment to enhance the remediation of aliphatic hydrocarbons in contaminated soils.
- Petrogenic hydrocarbons
- Plant residues