Rhizoremediation, the use of the plant rhizosphere and associated microorganisms represents a promising method for the clean up of soils contaminated with polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) including phenanthrene and pyrene, two model PAHs. Although numerous studies have been published reporting the degradation of phenanthrene and pyrene, very few evaluate the microbial basis of the rhizoremediation process through the application of molecular tools. The aim of this study was to investigate the effect of wheat on the degradation of two model PAHs (alone or in combination) and also on soil bacterial, fungal and nidA gene (i.e. a key gene in the degradation of pyrene) communities. The addition of wheat plants led to a significant enhancement in the degradation of both phenanthrene and pyrene. In pyrene-contaminated soils, the degradation rate increased from 15% (65mg/kg) and 18% (90mg/kg) in unplanted soils to 65% (280mg/kg) and 70% (350mg/kg) in planted treatments while phenanthrene reduction was enhanced from 97% (394mg/kg) and 87% (392mg/kg) for unplanted soils to 100% (406mg/kg) and 98% (441mg/kg) in the presence of wheat. PCR-DGGE results showed that the plant root let to some changes in the bacterial and fungal communities; these variations did not reflect any change in hydrocarbon-degrading communities. However, plate counting, traditional MPN and MPN-qPCR of nidA gene revealed that the wheat rhizosphere led to an increase in the total microbial abundance including PAH degrading organisms and these increased activities resulted in enhanced degradation of phenanthrene and pyrene. This clearer insight into the mechanisms underpinning PAH degradation will enable better application of this environmentally friendly technique.
- Plant rhizosphere
- Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Environmental Engineering
- Waste Management and Disposal
- Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law