The microbial degradation of petroleum hydrocarbons at low temperatures was investigated in subarctic deep-sea sediments in the Faroe Shetland Channel (FSC). The effect of the marine oil dispersant, Superdispersant 25 on hydrocarbon degradation was also examined. Sediments collected at 500 and 1000 m depth were spiked with a model oil containing 20 hydrocarbons and incubated at ambient temperature (5 and 0 °C, respectively) with and without marine dispersant. Treatment of sediments with hydrocarbons resulted in the enrichment of Gammaproteobacteria, and specifically the genera Pseudoalteromonas, Pseudomonas, Halomonas, and Cobetia. Hydrocarbon degradation was faster at 5 °C (500 m) with 65–89% of each component degraded after 50 days compared to 0–47% degradation at 0 °C (1000 m), where the aromatic hydrocarbons fluoranthene, anthracene, and Dibenzothiophene showed no degradation. Dispersant significantly increased the rate of degradation at 1000 m, but had no effect at 500 m. There was no statistically significant effect of Superdispersant 25 on the bacterial community structure at either station. These results show that the indigenous bacterial community in the FSC has the capacity to mitigate some of the effects of a potential oil spill, however, the effect of dispersant is ambiguous and further research is needed to understand the implications of its use.
- ecosystem services
- marine biology
- microbial ecology
- water microbiology
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- Biological Sciences, Aberdeen Centre For Environmental Sustainability - Chair in Zoology
- Marine Alliance for Science and Technology for Scotland (MASTS)