Daniele Daffonchio, Manuel Ferrer, Francesca Mapelli, Ameur Cherif, Álvaro Lafraya, Hanan I. Malkawi, Michail M. Yakimov, Yasser R. Abdel-Fattah, Mohamed Blaghen, Peter N. Golyshin, Nicolas Kalogerakis, Nico Boon, Mirko Magagnini, Fabio Fava
Department of Food Science and Microbiology, University of Milan, Milan, Italy.
Mediterranean Sea is facing a very high risk of oil pollution due to the high number of oil extractive and refining sites along the basin coasts, and the intense maritime traffic of oil tankers. All the Mediterranean countries have adopted severe regulations for minimizing pollution events and bioremediation feasibility studies for the most urgent polluted sites are undergoing. However, the analysis of the scientific studies applying modern ‘meta-omics’ technologies that have been performed on marine oil pollution worldwide showed that the Southern Mediterranean side has been neglected by the international research. Most of the studies in the Mediterranean Sea have been done in polluted sites of the Northern side of the basin. Those of the Southern side are poorly studied, despite many of the Southern countries being major oil producers and exporters. The recently EU-funded research project ULIXES has as a major objective to increase the knowledge of the bioremediation potential of sites from the Southern Mediterranean countries. ULIXES is targeting four major polluted sites on the coastlines of Egypt, Jordan, Morocco and Tunisia, including seashore sands, lagoons, and oil refinery polluted sediments. The research is designed to unravel, categorize, catalog, exploit and manage the diversity and ecology of microorganisms thriving in these polluted sites. Isolation of novel hydrocarbon degrading microbes and a series of state of the art ‘meta-omics’ technologies are the baseline tools for improving our knowledge on biodegradation capacities mediated by microbes under different environmental settings and for designing novel site-tailored bioremediation approaches. A network of twelve European and Southern Mediterranean partners is cooperating for plugging the existing gap of knowledge for the development of novel bioremediation processes targeting such poorly investigated polluted sites.