Environmental Science and Pollution Research

, Volume 19, Issue 1, pp 53–63 | Cite as

Natural attenuation is enhanced in previously contaminated and coniferous forest soils

  • Sari Kauppi
  • Martin Romantschuk
  • Rauni Strömmer
  • Aki Sinkkonen
Research Article



Prevalence of organic pollutants or their natural analogs in soil is often assumed to lead to adaptation in the bacterial community, which results in enhanced bioremediation if the soil is later contaminated. In this study, the effects of soil type and contamination history on diesel oil degradation and bacterial adaptation were studied.


Mesocosms of mineral and organic forest soil (humus) were artificially treated with diesel oil, and oil hydrocarbon concentrations (GC-FID), bacterial community composition (denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis, DGGE), and oil hydrocarbon degraders (DGGE + sequencing of 16S rRNA genes) were monitored for 20 weeks at 16°C.


Degradation was advanced in previously contaminated soils as compared with pristine soils and in coniferous organic forest soil as compared with mineral soil. Contamination affected bacterial community composition especially in the pristine mineral soil, where diesel addition increased the number of strong bands in the DGGE gel. Sequencing of cloned 16S rRNA gene fragments and DGGE bands showed that potential oil-degrading bacteria were found in mineral and organic soils and in both pristine and previously contaminated mesocosms. Fast oil degradation was not associated with the presence of any particular bacterial strain in soil.


We demonstrate at the mesocosm scale that previously contaminated and coniferous organic soils are superior environments for fast oil degradation as compared with pristine and mineral soil environments. These results may be utilized in preventing soil pollution and planning soil remediation.


Diesel oil hydrocarbons Biodegradation Soil type Coniferous forest organic soil Bacterial community composition 



The study was funded by Foundation for Research of Natural Resources in Finland, Marjatta and Eino Kolli Foundation and Elite project funded by ERDF and the Regional Council of Päijät-Häme. The authors wish to thank Hanna Puttonen, Mari Joensuu, and Tomasz Płociniczak for the laboratory assistance.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Sari Kauppi
    • 1
  • Martin Romantschuk
    • 1
  • Rauni Strömmer
    • 1
  • Aki Sinkkonen
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Environmental Sciences, Section of EcologyUniversity of HelsinkiLahtiFinland

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