, Volume 10, Issue 3, pp 171–179 | Cite as

Bioremediation of hydrocarbon-contaminated polar soils

  • Jackie AislabieEmail author
  • David J. Saul
  • Julia M. Foght


Bioremediation is increasingly viewed as an appropriate remediation technology for hydrocarbon-contaminated polar soils. As for all soils, the successful application of bioremediation depends on appropriate biodegradative microbes and environmental conditions in situ. Laboratory studies have confirmed that hydrocarbon-degrading bacteria typically assigned to the genera Rhodococcus, Sphingomonas or Pseudomonas are present in contaminated polar soils. However, as indicated by the persistence of spilled hydrocarbons, environmental conditions in situ are suboptimal for biodegradation in polar soils. Therefore, it is likely that ex situ bioremediation will be the method of choice for ameliorating and controlling the factors limiting microbial activity, i.e. low and fluctuating soil temperatures, low levels of nutrients, and possible alkalinity and low moisture. Care must be taken when adding nutrients to the coarse-textured, low-moisture soils prevalent in continental Antarctica and the high Arctic because excess levels can inhibit hydrocarbon biodegradation by decreasing soil water potentials. Bioremediation experiments conducted on site in the Arctic indicate that land farming and biopiles may be useful approaches for bioremediation of polar soils.


Polar soils Hydrocarbon-degrading bacteria Low temperature Bioremediation Arctic Antarctic Psychrotolerant 



This work was supported by funding from the Foundation for Research, Science and Technology, New Zealand (C09X0307).


  1. Aislabie J, McLeod M, Fraser R (1998) Potential of biodegradation of hydrocarbons in soil from the Ross Dependency, Antarctica. Appl Microbiol Biotechnol 49:210–214CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Aislabie J, Foght J, Saul D (2000) Aromatic-hydrocarbon degrading bacteria isolated from soil near Scott Base, Antarctica. Polar Biol 23:183–188CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Aislabie J, Fraser R, Duncan S, Farrell RL (2001) Effects of oil spills on microbial heterotrophs in Antarctic soils. Polar Biol 24:308–313CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Aislabie JM, Balks MR, Foght JM, Waterhouse EJ (2004) Hydrocarbon spills on Antarctic soils: effects and management. Environ Sci Technol 38:1265–1274CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  5. Atlas RM (1986) Fate of petroleum pollutants in Arctic ecosystems. Water Sci Technol 18:59–67Google Scholar
  6. Balks MR, Paetzold RF, Kimble JM, Aislabie J, Campbell IB (2002) Effects of hydrocarbon spills on the temperature and moisture regimes of Crysols in the Ross Sea region. Ant Sci 14:319–326CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Baraniecki CA, Aislabie J, Foght JM (2002) Characterisation of Sphingomonas sp. Ant 17, an aromatic hydrocarbon-degrading bacterium isolated from Antarctic soil. Microb Ecol 43:44–54CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  8. Bej AK, Saul DJ, Aislabie J (2000) Cold tolerant alkane-degrading Rhodococcus species from Antarctica. Polar Biol 23:100–105CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Braddock JF, Ruth ML, Catterall PH, Walworth JL, McCarthy KA (1997) Enhancement and inhibition of microbial activity in hydrocarbon-contaminated arctic soils: implications for nutrient-amended bioremediation. Environ Sci Technol 31:2078–2084CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Braddock JF, Walworth JL, McCarthy KA (1999) Biodegradation of aliphatic vs. aromatic hydrocarbons in fertilized Arctic soils. Biorem J 3:105–116CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Coulon F, Pelletier E, St Louis R, Gourhant L, Delille D (2004) Degradation of petroleum hydrocarbons in two sub-Antarctic soils: influence of an oleophilic fertilizer. Environ Toxicol Chem 23:1893–1901CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  12. Delille D, Pelletier E, Delille B, Coulon F (2003) Effects of nutrient enrichments on the bacterial assemblage of Antarctic soils contaminated by diesel or crude oil. Polar Rec 39:1–10CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Delille D, Coulon F, Pelletier E (2004a) Biostimulation of natural microbial assemblages in oil-amended vegetated and desert sub-Antarctic soils. Microb Ecol 47:407–415CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Delille D, Coulon F, Pelletier E (2004b) Effects of temperature warming during a bioremediation study of natural and nutrient-amended hydrocarbon-contaminated sub-Antarctic soils. Cold Reg Sci Technol 40:61–70CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Dibble JT Bartha R (1979) Effect of environmental parameters on the biodegradation of oil sludge. Appl Environ Microbiol 37:729–739PubMedGoogle Scholar
  16. Eckford R, Cook FD, Saul D, Aislabie J, Foght J (2002) Free-living nitrogen-fixing bacteria from fuel-contaminated Antarctic soils. Appl Environ Microbiol 68:5181–5185CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  17. Eriksson M, Ka J-O, Mohn WW (2001) Effects of low temperature and freeze–thaw cycles on hydrocarbon biodegradation in Arctic tundra soil. Appl Environ Microbiol 67:5107–5112CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  18. Eriksson M, Dalhammar G, Mohn WW (2002) Bacterial growth and biofilm production on pyrene. FEMS Microbiol Ecol 40:21–27Google Scholar
  19. Eriksson M, Sodersten E, Yu Z, Dalhammer G, Mohn WW (2003) Degradation of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons at low temperature under aerobic and nitrate-reducing conditions in enrichment cultures from Northern soils. Appl Environ Microbiol 69:275–284CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  20. Ferguson SH, Franzmann PD, Revill AT, Snape I, Rayner JL (2003) The effects of nitrogen and water on mineralisation of hydrocarbons in diesel-contaminated terrestrial Antarctic soils. Cold Reg Sci Technol 37:197–212CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Filler DM, Lindstrom JE, Braddock JF, Johnson RA, Nickalaski R (2001) Integral biopile components for successful bioremediation in the Arctic. Cold Reg Sci Technol 32:143–156CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Grishchenkov VG, Shishmakov DA, Kosheleva IA, Boronin AM (2003) Growth of bacteria degrading naphthalene and salicylate at low temperatures. Appl Biochem Microbiol 39:282–288CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Kerry E (1990) Microorganisms colonizing plants and soil subjected to different degrees of human activity, including petroleum contamination, in the Vestfold Hills and MacRobertson Land, Antarctica. Polar Biol 10:423–430Google Scholar
  24. Kerry E (1993) Bioremediation of experimental petroleum spills on mineral soils in the Vestfold Hills, Antarctica. Polar Biol 13:163–170CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Luz AP, Pellizari VH, Whyte LG, Greer CW (2004) A survey of indigenous microbial hydrocarbon degradation genes in soils from Antarctica and Brazil. Can J Microbiol 50:323–333CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  26. MacCormack WP, Fraile ER (1997) Characterization of a hydrocarbon-degrading psychrotrophic Antarctic bacterium. Ant Sci 9:150–155Google Scholar
  27. Margesin R, Schinner F (1999) Biological decontamination of oil spils in cold environments. J Chem Technol Biotechnol 74:381–389CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Master ER, Mohn WW (1998) Psychrotolerant bacteria isolated from Arctic soil that degrade polychlorinated biphenyls at low temperatures. Appl Environ Microbiol 64:4823–4829PubMedGoogle Scholar
  29. McCarthy K, Walker L, Vigoren L, Bartel J (2004) Remediation of spilled hydrocarbons by in situ landfarming at an arctic site. Cold Reg Sci Technol 40:31–39CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Mohn WW, Stewart GR (2000) Limiting factors for hydrocarbon degradation at low temperature in Arctic soils. Soil Biol Biochem 32:1161–1172CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Mohn WW, Radziminski CZ, Fortin M-C, Reimer KJ (2001) On site bioremediation of hydrocarbon-contaminated Arctic tundra soils in inoculated biopiles. Appl Microbiol Biotechnol 57:242–247CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  32. Morgan R, Watkinson RJ (1989) Hydrocarbon degradation in soils and methods for soil treatment. CRC Crit Rev Biotechnol 8:305–333Google Scholar
  33. Panicker G, Aislabie J, Saul D, Bej AK (2002) Cold tolerance of Pseudomonas sp. 30-3 isolated from oil-contaminated soil, Antarctica. Polar Biol 25:5–11CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Pruthi V, Cameotra SS (1997) Production and properties of a biosurfactant synthesized by Arthrobacter protophormiae—an Antarctic strain. World J Microbiol Biotechnol 13:137–139Google Scholar
  35. Rike AG, Haugen KB, Børresen M, Engene B, Kolstad P (2003). In situ biodegradation of petroleum hydrocarbons in frozen arctic soils. Cold Reg Sci Technol 37:97–120CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Rike AG, Haugen KB, Engene B (2005) In situ biodegradation of hydrocarbons in arctic soil at sub-zero temperatures—field monitoring and theoretical simulation of the microbial activation temperature at a Spitsbergen contaminated site. Cold Reg Sci Technol 41:189–209CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Ruberto LAM, Vazquez SC, MacCormack WP (2003) Effectiveness of the natural bacterial flora, biostimulation and bioaugmentation on the bioremediation of a hydrocarbon contaminated Antarctic soil. Int Biodeter Biodeg 52:115–125CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Ruberto LAM, Vazquez SC, Lobalo A, MacCormack WP (2005) Psychrotolerant hydrocarbon-degrading Rhodococcus strains isolated from polluted Antarctic soils. Ant Sci 17:47–56CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Saul DJ, Aislabie J, Brown CE, Harris L, Foght JM (2005) Hydrocarbon contamination changes the bacterial diversity of soil from around Scott Base, Antarctica. FEMS Microbiol Ecol 53:141–155CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  40. Snape I, Ferguson S, Revill A (2003) Constraints on rates of natural attenuation and in situ bioremediation of petroleum spills in Antarctica. In: Nahir M, Biggar K, Cotta G (eds) Assessment and remediation of contaminated sites in Arctic and cold climates (Proceedings). St. Joseph’s Print Group Inc., Edmonton AB, pp 257–261Google Scholar
  41. Tarnocai C, Campbell IB (2002) Soils of the polar regions. In: Lal R (ed) Encyclopedia of soil science, Marcel Dekker, New York, pp 1018–1021Google Scholar
  42. Thomassin-Lacroix EJM, Yu Z, Eriksson M, Reimer KJ, Mohn WW (2001) DNA-based and culture-based characterization of hydrocarbon-degrading consortium enriched from Arctic soil. Can J Microbiol 47:1107–1115CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  43. Thomassin-Lacroix EJM, Eriksson M, Reimer KJ, Mohn WW (2002) Biostimulation and bioaugmentation for on-site treatment of weathered diesel fuel in Arctic soil. Appl Microbiol Biotechnol 59:551–556CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  44. Walworth JL, Reynolds CM (1995) Bioremediation of a petroleum-contaminated cryic soil: effects of phosphorus, nitrogen, and temperature. J Soil Contam 4:299–310Google Scholar
  45. Walworth JL, Woolard CR, Braddock JF, Reynolds CM (1997) Enhancement and inhibition of soil petroleum biodegradation through the use of fertilizer nitrogen: an approach to determining optimum levels. J Soil Contam 6:465–480Google Scholar
  46. Walworth JL, Woolard CR, Harris KC (2003) Nutrient amendments for contaminated peri-glacial soils: use of cod bone meal as a controlled release nutrient source. Cold Reg Sci Technol 37:81–88CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Whyte LG, Greer CW, Inniss WE (1996) Assessment of the biodegradation potential of psychrotrophic microorganisms. Can J Microbiol 42:99–106PubMedGoogle Scholar
  48. Whyte LG, Bourbonniere L, Greer CW (1997) Biodegradation of petroleum hydrocarbons by psychrotrophic Pseudomonas strains possessing both alkane (alk) and naphthalene (nah) catabolic pathways. Appl Environ Microbiol 63:3719–3723PubMedGoogle Scholar
  49. Whyte LG, Bourbonniere L, Bellerose C, Greer CW (1999a) Bioremediation assessment of hydrocarbon-contaminated soils from the High Arctic. Biorem J 3:69–79CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Whyte LG, Slagman SJ, Pietrantonio F, Bourbonniere L, Koval SF, Lawrence JR, Inniss WE, Greer CW (1999b) Physiological adaptations involved in alkane assimilation at low temperatures by Rhodococcus sp. Strain Q15. Appl Environ Microbiol 65:2961–2968Google Scholar
  51. Whyte LG, Goalen B, Hawari J, Labbe D, Greer CW, Nahir M (2001) Bioremediation treatability assessment of hydrocarbon-contaminated soils from Eureka, Nunavut. Cold Reg Sci Technol 32:121–132CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Whyte LG, Schultz A, van Beilen JB, Luz AP, Pellizari V, Labbe D, Greer CW (2002) Prevalence of alkane monooxygenase genes in Arctic and Antarctic hydrocarbon-contaminated and pristine soils. FEMS Microbiol Ecol 41:141–150Google Scholar
  53. Yu Z, Stewart GR, Mohn WW (2000) Apparent contradiction: Psychrotolerant bacteria from hydrocarbon-contaminated Arctic tundra soils that degrade diterpenoids synthesized by trees. Appl Environ Microbiol 66:5148–5154CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jackie Aislabie
    • 1
    Email author
  • David J. Saul
    • 2
  • Julia M. Foght
    • 3
  1. 1.Landcare ResearchHamiltonNew Zealand
  2. 2.Biological Sciences DepartmentUniversity of AucklandAucklandNew Zealand
  3. 3.Biological Sciences DepartmentUniversity of AlbertaEdmontonCanada

Personalised recommendations