169 Native freshwater lake microbial community response to an in situ experimental dilbit spill

Kharey G.S., Palace V., Whyte L., Greer C.W. (2024) FEMS Microbiology Ecology, 100 (5), art. no. fiae055,   DOI: 10.1093/femsec/fiae055

ABSTRACT: With the increase in crude oil transport throughout Canada, the potential for spills into freshwater ecosystems has increased and additional research is needed in these sensitive environments. Large enclosures erected in a lake were used as mesocosms for this controlled experimental dilbit (diluted bitumen) spill under ambient environmental conditions. The microbial response to dilbit, the efficacy of standard remediation protocols on different shoreline types commonly found in Canadian freshwater lakes, including a testing of a shoreline washing agent were all evaluated. We found that the native microbial community did not undergo any significant shifts in composition after exposure to dilbit or the ensuing remediation treatments. Regardless of the treatment, sample type (soil, sediment, or water), or type of associated shoreline, the community remained relatively consistent over a 3-month monitoring period. Following this, metagenomic analysis of polycyclic aromatic and alkane hydrocarbon degradation mechanisms also showed that while many key genes identified in PAH and alkane biodegradation were present, their abundance did not change significantly over the course of the experiment. These results showed that the native microbial community present in a pristine freshwater lake has the prerequisite mechanisms for hydrocarbon degradation in place, and combined with standard remediation practices in use in Canada, has the genetic potential and resilience to potentially undertake bioremediation.

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