Response and oil degradation activities of a northeast Atlantic bacterial community to biogenic and synthetic surfactants

Christina N. Nikolova, Umer Zeeshan Ijaz, Clayton Magill, Sara Kleindienst, Samantha B. Joye, Tony Gutierrez

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Citations (Scopus)
66 Downloads (Pure)


Biosurfactants are naturally derived products that play a similar role to synthetic dispersants in oil spill response but are easily biodegradable and less toxic. Using a combination of analytical chemistry, 16S rRNA amplicon sequencing and simulation-based approaches, this study investigated the microbial community dynamics, ecological drivers, functional diversity and robustness, and oil biodegradation potential of a northeast Atlantic marine microbial community to crude oil when exposed to rhamnolipid or synthetic dispersant Finasol OSR52.

Psychrophilic Colwellia and Oleispira dominated the community in both the rhamnolipid and Finasol OSR52 treatments initially but later community structure across treatments diverged significantly: Rhodobacteraceae and Vibrio dominated the Finasol-amended treatment, whereas Colwellia, Oleispira, and later Cycloclasticus and Alcanivorax, dominated the rhamnolipid-amended treatment. Key aromatic hydrocarbon-degrading bacteria, like Cycloclasticus, was not observed in the Finasol treatment but it was abundant in the oil-only and rhamnolipid-amended treatments. Overall, Finasol had a significant negative impact on the community diversity, weakened the taxa-functional robustness of the community, and caused a stronger environmental filtering, more so than oil-only and rhamnolipid-amended oil treatments. Rhamnolipid-amended and oil-only treatments had the highest functional diversity, however, the overall oil biodegradation was greater in the Finasol treatment, but aromatic biodegradation was highest in the rhamnolipid treatment.

Overall, the natural marine microbial community in the northeast Atlantic responded differently to crude oil dispersed with either synthetic or biogenic surfactants over time, but oil degradation was more enhanced by the synthetic dispersant. Collectively, our results advance the understanding of how rhamnolipid biosurfactants and synthetic dispersant Finasol affect the natural marine microbial community in the FSC, supporting their potential application in oil spills.
Original languageEnglish
Article number191
Publication statusPublished - 21 Sept 2021


  • Biodegradation
  • Biosurfactant
  • Crude oil
  • Dispersant
  • Faroe-Shetland Channel
  • Hydrocarbons
  • Marine environment
  • Rhamnolipid

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology
  • Microbiology (medical)


Dive into the research topics of 'Response and oil degradation activities of a northeast Atlantic bacterial community to biogenic and synthetic surfactants'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this