Bioaugmentation of soil polluted with polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) is often disappointing because of the low survival rate and low activity of the introduced degrader bacteria. We therefore investigated the possibility of priming PAH degradation in soil by adding 2% of bioremediated soil with a high capacity for PAH degradation. The culturable PAH-degrading community of the bioremediated primer soil was dominated by Mycobacterium spp. A microcosm containing pristine soil artificially polluted with PAHs and primed with bioremediated soil showed a fast, 100- to 1,000-fold increase in numbers of culturable phenanthrene-, pyrene-, and fluoranthene degraders and a 160-fold increase in copy numbers of the mycobacterial PAH dioxygenase gene pdo1. A nonpolluted microcosm primed with bioremediated soil showed a high rate of survival of the introduced degrader community during the 112 days of incubation. A nonprimed control microcosm containing pristine soil artificially polluted with PAHs showed only small increases in the numbers of culturable PAH degraders and no pdo1 genes. Initial PAH degradation rates were highest in the primed microcosm, but later, the degradation rates were comparable in primed and nonprimed soil. Thus, the proliferation and persistence of the introduced, soil-adapted degraders had only a marginal effect on PAH degradation. Given the small effect of priming with bioremediated soil and the likely presence of PAH degraders in almost all PAH-contaminated soils, it seems questionable to prime PAH-contaminated soil with bioremediated soil as a means of large-scale soil bioremediation.
- Programme Area 2: Water Resources