Marine bacteria in the freezing waters of Canada’s Arctic are able to biodegrade petroleum and diesel fuel, according to a new study published in Applied and environmental microbiology, a journal of the American Society for Microbiology.
Genomic sequencing has revealed unexpected potential for bioremediation of hydrocarbons in lines of bacteria, including Paraperlucidibaca, Cycloclastic, and Zhongshaniasaid co-author Casey Hubert, Ph.D., associate professor of geomicrobiology, University of Calgary. These “may represent key players in the response to marine oil spills in the Arctic”.
“The study also confirmed that the nutrient supply can enhance the biodegradation of hydrocarbons under these low temperature conditions,” said Dr Hubert.
The impetus of this work: “These always cold waters are experiencing increasing industrial activity linked to maritime transport and to the activities of the offshore oil and gas sector,” said Dr Hubert.
Sean Murphy, the student of Dr Hubert, who grew up in the region, is the instigator of the project. Mr. Murphy, Aquatic Scientist, ERM Canada, had noted both the benefits that offshore oil had brought to the people of Newfoundland and Labrador, but had been deeply troubled by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, and had focused his masters research on the Labrador Sea to “help inform future oil spill mitigation strategies … at cold temperatures in the region”.
The Labrador coast, where the study took place, is important to Indigenous peoples who depend on the ocean for food, and unlike at lower latitudes, there has been a dearth of bioremediation research in this great north, noted Dr. Hubert.
“As climate change prolongs ice-free periods and industrial activity increases in the Arctic, it is important to understand the ways in which the Arctic marine microbiome will respond to an oil or fuel spill,” said the Dr Hubert. This is particularly important, because “this region remains large and remote, so emergency response to an oil spill would be complicated and slow.”
In the study, investigators simulated the remediation of an oil spill inside bottles, combining mud from the first few inches of the seabed with artificial seawater, and with diesel or fuel oil. crude oil, as well as different nutrient amendments at different concentrations.
The experiments were carried out at 4 ° C, to approximate the temperature of the Labrador Sea, and took place over several weeks. “Our simulations have shown that bacteria naturally present in the ocean that break down oil are nature’s first responders to an oil spill,” said Dr Hubert.
Reference: August 11, 2021, Applied and environmental microbiology.
DOI: 10.1128 / AEM.00800-21
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