Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology

, Volume 86, Issue 3, pp 839–852

Current approaches for the assessment of in situ biodegradation

  • Petra Bombach
  • Hans H. Richnow
  • Matthias Kästner
  • Anko Fischer


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.


Microbial in situ degradation Contaminated aquifer In situ microcosm Compound-specific isotope analysis Metabolites Functional genes 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Petra Bombach
    • 1
    • 2
  • Hans H. Richnow
    • 1
  • Matthias Kästner
    • 3
  • Anko Fischer
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Isotope BiogeochemistryUFZ - Helmholtz Centre for Environmental ResearchLeipzigGermany
  2. 2.Isodetect - Company for Isotope Monitoring (Branch Leipzig)LeipzigGermany
  3. 3.Department of Environmental BiotechnologyUFZ - Helmholtz Centre for Environmental ResearchLeipzigGermany

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