Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Bacteria supplemented their diet to clean up after Deep Water Horizon oil

Date:
August 29, 2013
Source:
European Association of Geochemistry
Summary:
Bacteria living in the Gulf of Mexico beaches were able to ‘eat up’ the contamination from the Deep Water Horizon oil spill by supplementing their diet with nitrogen.

Protective oil boom on Gulf of Mexico beach.
Credit: © Cheryl Casey / Fotolia

Bacteria living in the Gulf of Mexico beaches were able to 'eat up' the contamination from the Deep Water Horizon oil spill by supplementing their diet with nitrogen, delegates at the Goldschmidt conference will be told today, Friday 30th August.

Professor Joel Kostka will tell geochemists gathered in Florence for the conference that detailed genetic analysis showed some of the bacteria thrived on a diet of oil because they were able to fix nitrogen from the air. The research -- the first to use next generation sequencing technologies to dig into the detail of how the native beach microbes are metabolising the oil over time -- could open the door to much more sophisticated clean up techniques.

"Oil is a natural product, made of decayed plants and animals, and so is similar to the normal food sources for these bacteria." explains Professor Kostka, a microbiologist from Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta. "But because oil is low in nutrients such as nitrogen, this can limit how fast the bacteria grow and how quickly they are able to break down the oil. Our analysis showed that some bacteria are able to solve this problem themselves -- by getting their own nitrogen from the air."

Professor Kostka worked with Professor Markus Huettel, a biogeochemist from Florida State University, to take more than 500 samples over two years from Pensacola beach in the Gulf of Mexico, starting when the Deep Water Horizon oil slick first came ashore in June 2010. By analysing every gene of every bacteria in the sample, they were able to see which bacteria were present and how they responded as the conditions on the beach changed.The researchers looked at the prevalence of genes which encode for different types of activity -- such as nitrogen fixing or phosphorus uptake -- to identify exactly how the bacteria were degrading the oil.

"By understanding how the oil is degraded by microbes, which microbes do the work, and the impact of the surrounding environmental conditions, we can develop ways to intervene to support the natural clean-up process," says Professor Kostka. "However, we need to do this in a very measured and targeted way, to avoid long-term, unintended damage to the ecosystem. For example, in the past, nitrogen fertiliser has been sprayed onto contaminated beaches to speed up the work of the bacteria. Our analysis shows that, where bacteria can get this nitrogen naturally, such drastic intervention may not be necessary."

The genetic analysis carried out by Professor Kostka and his colleague Konstantinos Konstantinidis at Georgia Tech can show exactly how the oil-degrading bacteria are working at each part of an affected coastline, making it possible to identify which beaches are most effective at self-cleaning and target mitigation efforts -- such as offshore booms -- at the most vulnerable areas.But not all the bacteria thrived on a diet of oil. Professor Kostka's research showed that some bacteria which play an important role in the ecosystem of the beaches experienced a sharp decline following the contamination in June 2010.

"There's a tendency to focus on the short-term, visible effects of an oil spill on the beach and assume that once the beach looks 'clean' then all is back to normal," he says. "Our analysis shows some of the invisible impact in the loss of these important microbes. We need to be aware of the long-term chronic damage both a spill -- and in some cases our attempts to deal with it -- can cause."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by European Association of Geochemistry. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

European Association of Geochemistry. "Bacteria supplemented their diet to clean up after Deep Water Horizon oil." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 29 August 2013. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/08/130829214356.htm>.
European Association of Geochemistry. (2013, August 29). Bacteria supplemented their diet to clean up after Deep Water Horizon oil. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 24, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/08/130829214356.htm
European Association of Geochemistry. "Bacteria supplemented their diet to clean up after Deep Water Horizon oil." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/08/130829214356.htm (accessed April 24, 2014).

Share This



More Earth & Climate News

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

UN Joint Mission Starts Removing Landmines in Cyprus

UN Joint Mission Starts Removing Landmines in Cyprus

AFP (Apr. 23, 2014) — The UN mission in Cyprus (UNFICYP) led a mine clearance demonstration on Wednesday in the UN-controlled buffer zone where demining operations are being conducted near the Cypriot village of Mammari. Duration: 01:00 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
California Drought Is Good News for Gold Prospectors

California Drought Is Good News for Gold Prospectors

AFP (Apr. 22, 2014) — For months California has suffered from a historic drought. The lack of water is worrying for farmers and ranchers, but for gold diggers it’s a stroke of good fortune. With water levels low, normally inaccessible areas are exposed. Duration: 01:57 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: MN Lakes Still Frozen Before Fishing Opener

Raw: MN Lakes Still Frozen Before Fishing Opener

AP (Apr. 22, 2014) — With only three weeks until Minnesota's fishing opener, many are wondering if the ice will be gone. Some of the Northland lakes are still covered by up to three feet of ice, causing concern that just like last year, the lakes won't be ready. (April 22) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Scientists Warn Of Likely El Niño Event This Year

Scientists Warn Of Likely El Niño Event This Year

Newsy (Apr. 22, 2014) — With Pacific ocean water already showing signs of warming, the NOAA says there's about a 66 percent chance the event will begin before November. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins