Effects of nutrient and temperature on degradation of petroleum hydrocarbons in contaminated sub-Antarctic soil
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Frédéric Coulona, Emilien Pelletierb, Lénaick Gourhantb and Daniel Delillea,
aObservatoire Océanologique de Banyuls, Université P. et M. Curie UMR-CNRS 7621, Laboratoire Arago, 66650 Banyuls sur mer, France
bInstitut des Sciences de la Mer de Rimouski (ISMER), Université du Québec à Rimouski, 310 allée des Ursulines, Rimouski, Canada G5L3A1
Mesocosm studies using sub-Antarctic soil artificially contaminated with diesel or crude oil were conducted in Kerguelen Archipelago (49°21′ S, 70°13′ E) in an attempt to evaluate the potential of a bioremediation approach in high latitude environments. All mesocosms were sampled on a regular basis over six months period. Soils responded positively to temperature increase from 4 °C to 20 °C, and to the addition of a commercial oleophilic fertilizer containing N and P. Both factors increased the hydrocarbon-degrading microbial abundance and total petroleum hydrocarbons (TPH) degradation. In general, alkanes were faster degraded than polyaromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). After 180 days, total alkane losses of both oils reached 77–95% whereas total PAHs never exceeded 80% with optimal conditions at 10 °C and fertilizer added. Detailed analysis of naphthalenes, dibenzothiophenes, phenanthrenes, and pyrenes showed a clear decrease of their degradation rate as a function of the size of the PAH molecules. During the experiment there was only a slight decrease in the toxicity, whereas the concentration of TPH decreased significantly during the same time. The most significant reduction in toxicity occurred at 4 °C. Therefore, bioremediation of hydrocarbon-contaminated sub-Antarctic soil appears to be feasible, and various engineering strategies, such as heating or amending the soil can accelerate hydrocarbon degradation. However, the residual toxicity of contaminated soil remained drastically high before the desired cleanup is complete and it can represent a limiting factor in the bioremediation of sub-Antarctic soil.
Keywords: Sub-Antarctic soil; Fertilizer; Crude oil; Diesel; Biostimulation; Mesocosms