Microbial Remediation of Organometals and Oil Hydrocarbons in the Marine Environment

  • Andreia CruzEmail author
  • Ana Julia Cavaleiro
  • Ana M. S. Paulo
  • António Louvado
  • M. Madalena Alves
  • Adelaide Almeida
  • Ângela Cunha


Marine environments are exposed to pollution that mostly results from human activities. Organometals and oil hydrocarbons are among the most hazardous pollutants. In surface waters and along the water column, these compounds are more easily degraded than in sediments, especially under anoxic conditions, where they are highly persistent. Due to their negative impact in living organisms, decontamination of polluted marine sites with minimum collateral impacts is imperative. Bioremediation strategies, benefiting from the ability of aerobic and anaerobic microorganisms to degrade organometals or oil hydrocarbons to simpler and less toxic derivatives, represent an alternative to traditional physicochemical decontamination methods. Different bioremediation strategies have been applied in marine environments, including monitored natural recovery, biostimulation, bioaugmentation and phytoremediation. Individual microbial agents or mixed microbial consortia able to remediate these pollutants in marine environments have been identified, and the most relevant mechanisms of biodegradation of pollutants are characterised.

This chapter provides an overview on microbial bioremediation of organometals and oil hydrocarbons in marine environments, focusing on the bioremediation concept, microbial aerobic/anaerobic agents, metabolic pathways and genetic determinants involved in the degradation/transformation processes while highlighting the importance of microbial consortia and their applications. A critical analysis of the advantages and limitations of microbial remediation and a perspective on future developments are also provided.


Bioremediation Organometals Oil hydrocarbons Biodegradation Bacteria Fungi Microbial consortia 



The authors thank the financial support from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), through the Operational Programme Thematic Factors of Competitiveness (COMPETE), and the Portuguese Foundation for Science and Technology (FCT) in the frame of project FCOMP-010124-FEDER-027917 (FCT: PTDC/AAG-TEC/3428/2012). The authors also thank the FCT strategic funding of UID/BIO/04469/2013 unit, COMPETE 2020 (POCI-01-0145-FEDER-006684), and Project RECI/BBB-EBI/0179/2012 (FCOMP-01-0124-FEDER-027462). Research of AC was funded by the postdoctoral grant (BPD/UI88/2886/2013), from the project “Sustainable Use of Marine Resources” – MARES (CENTRO-07-ST24-FEDER-002033), funded by QREN, Mais Centro- Programa Operacional Regional do Centro e União Europeia/Fundo Europeu de Desenvolvimento Regional. AL was funded by a PhD grant SFRH/BD/86447/2012 funded by FCT. Research of AJC was supported by ERC grant (project 323009).


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Singapore 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Andreia Cruz
    • 1
    Email author
  • Ana Julia Cavaleiro
    • 2
  • Ana M. S. Paulo
    • 2
  • António Louvado
    • 1
  • M. Madalena Alves
    • 2
  • Adelaide Almeida
    • 1
  • Ângela Cunha
    • 1
  1. 1.Biology Department & Centre for Environmental and Marine Studies (CESAM)University of AveiroAveiroPortugal
  2. 2.Centre of Biological EngineeringUniversity of MinhoBragaPortugal

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