, Volume 18, Issue 2-3, pp 131-139

Use of hopane as a conservative biomarker for monitoring the bioremediation effectiveness of crude oil contaminating a sandy beach

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Much of the variability inherent in crude oil bioremediation field studies can be eliminated by normalizing analyte concentrations to the concentration of a nonbiodegradable biomarker such as hopane. This was demonstrated with data from a field study in which crude oil was intentionally released onto experimental plots on the Delaware shoreline. Five independent replicates of three treatments were examined: no nutrient addition, addition of inorganic mineral nutrients alone, and nutrient addition plus indigenous oil-degrading microorganisms from the site. Samples collected biweekly were analyzed for the Most Probable Numbers (MPNs) of alkane and aromatic degraders and oil component analysis by GC/MS. The data were normalized to either the mass of sand that was extracted or to the concentration of hopane that was measured. Hopane normalization enabled detection of significant treatment differences in hydrocarbon biodegradation that were not detected when the data were normalized to sand mass. First-order loss rates for the hopane-normalized data were lower than those for the sand-normalized data because hopane normalization accounts only for loss due to biodegradation whereas sand normalization includes all loss mechanisms. Plots amended with nutrients alone and nutrients plus the inoculum showed enhanced removal of hydrocarbons compared to unamended control plots. However, no differences were detected between the nutrient-amended plots and the nutrient/inoculum-amended plots.