Specific enrichment of hydrocarbonclastic bacteria from diesel-amended soil on biochar particles

Zhansaya Assil, Onoriode Esegbue, Ondřej Mašek, Tony Gutierrez, Andrew Free

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Citations (Scopus)
107 Downloads (Pure)


Biochar has been proposed as a suitable biostimulant for the remediation of hydrocarbon contamination, and also has the potential to act as a carrier for hydrocarbonoclastic microorganisms which could bioaugment endogenous microbial communities. However, the evidence regarding the biostimulatory effects of biochars on hydrocarbon bioremediation is somewhat equivocal, possibly due to variability of the physicochemical properties of biochar and soil across studies. Here, we use standard biochars with defined properties produced from softwood pellets (SWP) and rice husk (RH) at pyrolysis temperatures of 550 °C or 700 °C to test the effects of biochar amendment on microbial community composition and hydrocarbon degradation in soil microcosms contaminated with diesel oil. Combining this approach for the first time with specific analysis of microbial community composition using amplicon sequence variants (ASVs), we find that oil contamination causes extreme short-term loss of soil microbial diversity, and highly-specific selection of a limited set of genera defined by 13 ASVs. Biochar ameliorates the short-term loss of diversity, and in the longer term (9 weeks), changes community composition in a type-specific manner. The majority of the 13 selected ASVs are further enriched on biochar particles, although SWP biochars perform better than RH biochar in enrichment of putative hydrocarbonoclastic Aquabacterium spp. However, complete degradation of normal (n) alkanes from the aliphatic hydrocarbon fraction is prevented in the presence of biochar amendment, possibly due to their adsorption onto the char surface. Furthermore, we show that putative hydrocarbon degraders released from diesel-amended soil can subsequently be enriched to high levels on SWP biochar particles in growth medium supplemented with diesel oil as the sole carbon source; these include selected ASVs representing the genera Rhodococcus, Aquabacterium, and Cavicella. This work suggests that use of biochar pre-enriched with endogenous, conditionally-rare hydrocarbon degrading bacteria is a promising strategy for bioaugmentation of diesel-contaminated soils.
Original languageEnglish
Article number143084
JournalScience of the Total Environment
Early online date17 Oct 2020
Publication statusPublished - 25 Mar 2021


  • Amplicon sequence variant
  • Bioaugmentation
  • Biochar
  • Conditionally-rare taxa
  • Hydrocarbon contamination
  • Soil biostimulation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Engineering
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Pollution


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