, Volume 86, Issue 3, pp 839-852
Date: 20 Feb 2010

Current approaches for the assessment of in situ biodegradation

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Considering the high costs and technical difficulties associated with conventional remediation strategies, in situ biodegradation has become a promising approach for cleaning up contaminated aquifers. To verify if in situ biodegradation of organic contaminants is taking place at a contaminated site and to determine if these processes are efficient enough to replace conventional cleanup technologies, a comprehensive characterization of site-specific biodegradation processes is essential. In recent years, several strategies including geochemical analyses, microbial and molecular methods, tracer tests, metabolite analysis, compound-specific isotope analysis, and in situ microcosms have been developed to investigate the relevance of biodegradation processes for cleaning up contaminated aquifers. In this review, we outline current approaches for the assessment of in situ biodegradation and discuss their potential and limitations. We also discuss the benefits of research strategies combining complementary methods to gain a more comprehensive understanding of the complex hydrogeological and microbial interactions governing contaminant biodegradation in the field.