163 Influence of heavy Canadian crude oil on pristine freshwater boreal lake ecosystems in an experimental oil spill,

Kharey G.S., Palace V., Whyte L., Greer C.W. (2024) FEMS microbiology ecology, 100 (5),    DOI: 10.1093/femsec/fiae054

ABSTRACT: The overall impact of a crude oil spill into a pristine freshwater environment in Canada is largely unknown. To evaluate the impact on the native microbial community, a large-scale in situ model experimental spill was conducted to assess the potential role of the natural community to attenuate hydrocarbons. A small volume of conventional heavy crude oil (CHV) was introduced within contained mesocosm enclosures deployed on the shoreline of a freshwater lake. The oil was left to interact with the shoreline for 72 h and then free-floating oil was recovered using common oil spill response methods (i.e. freshwater flushing and capture on oleophilic absorptive media). Residual polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon (PAH) concentrations returned to near preoiling concentrations within 2 months, while the microbial community composition across the water, soil, and sediment matrices of the enclosed oligotrophic freshwater ecosystems did not shift significantly over this period. Metagenomic analysis revealed key polycyclic aromatic and alkane degradation mechanisms also did not change in their relative abundance over the monitoring period. These trends suggest that for small spills (<2 l of oil per 15 m2 of surface freshwater), physical oil recovery reduces polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon concentrations to levels tolerated by the native microbial community. Additionally, the native microbial community present in the monitored pristine freshwater ecosystem possesses the appropriate hydrocarbon degradation mechanisms without prior challenge by hydrocarbon substrates. This study corroborated trends found previously (Kharey et al. 2024) toward freshwater hydrocarbon degradation in an environmentally relevant scale and conditions on the tolerance of residual hydrocarbons in situ.

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