Alteration of microbial community structure affects diesel biodegradation in an Arctic soil

Terrence H. Bell, Etienne Yergeau, Dave F. Juck, Lyle G. Whyte, Charles W. Greer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

43 Scopus citations


A wide range of microbial taxa are active in hydrocarbon-contaminated Arctic soils, and many are capable of hydrocarbon metabolism. The most effective hydrocarbon degraders may not naturally dominate following contamination events, so shifts in microbial abundance could potentially increase hydrocarbon biodegradation. In this study, we contaminated an Arctic soil with diesel and used gentamicin and vancomycin to inhibit distinct portions of the microbial community. We measured diesel loss using gas chromatography, bacterial and fungal abundance with qPCR, and assessed bacterial diversity and community composition through Ion Torrent sequencing of 16S rRNA gene amplicons. The combined addition of both antibiotics increased diesel biodegradation significantly relative to the no-antibiotic treatment, despite reduced bacterial and fungal abundance; however, this effect was not observed when nutrients were also added. All treatments produced unique bacterial communities, and both Xanthomonadaceae and Micrococcineae were dominant in the dual antibiotic treatment. The bacterial communities resulting from dual gentamicin and vancomycin addition were similar both with and without nutrients, although nutrient addition produced a much larger fungal population, which may partly explain the differences in biodegradation between these two treatments. These results suggest that the most efficient hydrocarbon-degrading community may not always be promoted naturally in contaminated soils.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)51-61
Number of pages11
JournalFEMS microbiology ecology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jul 2013

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Microbiology
  • Ecology
  • Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology


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