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Appl Environ Microbiol. 2001 Nov;67(11):5107-12.

Effects of low temperature and freeze-thaw cycles on hydrocarbon biodegradation in Arctic tundra soil.

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Department of Biotechnology, Royal Institute of Technology, KTH, SE-100 44 Stockholm, Sweden.


Degradation of petroleum hydrocarbons was monitored in microcosms with diesel fuel-contaminated Arctic tundra soil incubated for 48 days at low temperatures (-5, 0, and 7 degrees C). An additional treatment was incubation for alternating 24-h periods at 7 and -5 degrees C. Hydrocarbons were biodegraded at or above 0 degrees C, and freeze-thaw cycles may have actually stimulated hydrocarbon biodegradation. Total petroleum hydrocarbon (TPH) removal over 48 days in the 7, 0, and 7 and -5 degrees C treatments, respectively, was 450, 300, and 600 microg/g of soil. No TPH removal was observed at -5 degrees C. Total carbon dioxide production suggested that TPH removal was due to biological mineralization. Bacterial metabolic activity, indicated by RNA/DNA ratios, was higher in the middle of the experiment (day 21) than at the start, in agreement with measured hydrocarbon removal and carbon dioxide production activities. The total numbers of culturable heterotrophs and of hydrocarbon degraders did not change significantly over the 48 days of incubation in any of the treatments. At the end of the experiment, bacterial community structure, evaluated by ribosomal intergenic spacer length analysis, was very similar in all of the treatments but the alternating 7 and -5 degrees C treatment.

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