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Water Research
Vol. 68, 2015, Pages: 637–650

Bioremediation of contaminated marine sediments can enhance metal mobility due to changes of bacterial diversity

Viviana Fonti, Francesca Beolchini, Laura Rocchetti, Antonio Dell'Anno

Department of Life and Environmental Sciences, Università Politecnica delle Marche, Via Brecce Bianche, 60131 Ancona, Italy.


Bioremediation strategies applied to contaminated marine sediments can induce important changes in the mobility and bioavailability of metals with potential detrimental consequences on ecosystem health. In this study we investigated changes of bacterial abundance and diversity (by a combination of molecular fingerprinting and next generation sequencing analyses) during biostimulation experiments carried out on anoxic marine sediments characterized by high metal content. We provide evidence that the addition of organic (lactose and/or acetate) and/or inorganic compounds to contaminated sediments determines a significant increase of bacterial growth coupled with changes in bacterial diversity and assemblage composition. Experimental systems supplied only with organic substrates were characterized by an increase of the relative importance of sulfate reducing bacteria belonging to the families Desulfobacteraceae and Desulfobulbaceae with a concomitant decrease of taxa affiliated with Flavobacteriaceae. An opposite effect was observed in the experimental treatments supplied also with inorganic nutrients. The increase of bacterial metabolism coupled with the increase of bacterial taxa affiliated with Flavobacteriaceae were reflected in a significant decrease of Cd and Zn associated with sedimentary organic matter and Pb and As associated with the residual fraction of the sediment. However, independently from the experimental conditions investigated no dissolution of metals occurred, suggesting a role of bacterial assemblages in controlling metal solubilization processes. Overall results of this study have allowed to identify key biogeochemical interactions influencing the metal behavior and provide new insights for a better understanding of the potential consequences of bio-treatments on the metal fate in contaminated marine sediments.

Graphical abstract

Keywords: Bioremediation; Marine sediments; Bacterial diversity; Metals.

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