Best of all, bioremediation techniques - that is, cleaning and restoring the environment with the help of flora and fauna - have been studied for mid-latitudes. But global warming is sweeping across the planet, so that more and more northern regions are involved in an active economic life. And at the same time, the problem of pollution becomes more pronounced. Therefore, Canadian scientists turned their eyes to the coast of the Labrador Peninsula, where they found several types of bacteria at once capable of decomposing oil, fuel oil and diesel fuel spills.
The results of a series of laboratory experiments with bacteria collected from natural habitats are published in the American Microbiological Society (ASM) journal Applied and Environmental Microbiology. The work was prepared by scientists from the University of Calgary, Alberta, Canada.
The researchers drew attention to the unexpectedly high potential of several types of microorganisms in the processing of hydrocarbons after sequencing their genome. When sequences encoding characteristic proteins were found in the DNA of several different bacteria at once, the scientists decided to plant them in conditions with a high content of oil products.
It turned out that a number of bacterial lines from the genera Paraperlucidibaca, Cycloclasticus, Oleispira, Thalassolituus and Zhongshania are able to exist in highly polluted waters. Moreover, the concentration of alkanes and polyaromatic hydrocarbons in their presence drops noticeably in just a couple of weeks. The decomposition of diesel fuel and crude oil was significantly accelerated if microorganisms were fed with nitrogen and phosphorus compounds. To complete the picture, all experiments were carried out under conditions close to natural - the water temperature did not exceed 4 ° Celsius.
For a full-scale application in the event of oil spills, however, no one is going to recommend these bacteria yet. Yes, they are present in this region and will not become an introduced species, but first their behavior needs to be studied better. Moreover, their capabilities also have a limit - the rate of degradation of hydrocarbons sharply decreased if the concentration of oil and diesel fuel in the water approached the level of 1% by volume.
However, the discovery of such opportunities in common bacteria is a good sign for future research. Scientists now know at least which way to look. And having found in the future the most "capable" lines of these genera of bacteria, they can be adapted or even sown unchanged in areas of contamination.
One of the study's authors, Sean M. C. Murphy, grew up in the Canadian Arctic and worries about the future of the region. Actually, it was he who drew the attention of his colleagues to the problem of finding ways to remediate the coastal waters of the Labrador Peninsula. In recent years, due to global warming, they are less and less covered with ice, which leads to an increase in the intensity of shipping and more frequent pollution.
The problem is that for local residents, especially indigenous people, the sea is a significant part of life and practically the only source of protein food. Therefore, any damage to the ecosystem inflicts a tangible blow on them.And in the coming years, the situation will not improve, only an increase in shipping in the waters around Labrador is expected.