The bioremediation potential of hydrocarbon-contaminated soils from the most northerly inhabited station in the world, Canadian Forces Station - Alert, was assessed. Microbial enumeration, by both viable plate counts and direct counts, combined with molecular analysis (polymerase chain reaction and colony hybridization) for hydrocarbon catabolic genes ( alkB , ndoB , xylE ), demonstrated the presence of significant numbers of cold-adapted hydrocarbon-degrading microorganisms. The degradative activity of these populations was assessed by mineralization of 14 Clabeled hexadecane (C16) at 5°C in untreated and treated soils. Although very low rates of C16 mineralization were observed in the untreated soils, nutrient supplementation with a fertilizer markedly increased C16 mineralization. Highly active cold-adapted hydrocarbon-degrading consortia were prepared from soil slurries, and their degradative potentials were monitored by biomass measurements and mineralization activity. Bio augmentation of the contaminated soils with consortia containing the greatest percentages of degradative bacteria resulted in the shortest C16 mineralization acclimation period. However, treatment with the consortia plus fertilizer did not appreciably increase C16 mineralization or reduce total petroleum hydrocarbon concentrations to a greater extent than did the fertilizer treatment alone. These results indicate that the soils possessed sufficient numbers of cold-adapted degradative bacteria, and that fertilizer application alone was sufficient to obtain elevated levels of degradative activity at low ambient summer temperatures.
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