Microbial community dynamics and biodegradation of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons in polluted marine sediments in Hong Kong.
ABSTRACT Dynamics of microbial community and biodegradation of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) in polluted marine sediments, artificially spiked with a mixture of PAHs (fluorene, phenanthrene, fluoranthene and pyrene), were examined for a period of 60 days. Microbial communities were characterised by bacterial counts, ester-linked fatty acid methyl ester (EL-FAME) analysis and denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis (DGGE). A noted reduction in species diversity occurred only in the high PAH level treatment at onset. Both EL-FAME and DGGE demonstrated a marked shift in microbial community, in all the PAH level treatments, afterwards, with increases in the number of fatty acid degraders, the relative abundance of fatty acid biomarkers for gram-negative bacteria and a decrease in species diversity. The shift was also accompanied by the significant decrease in PAH concentrations. By the end of the experiment, diversity indices, based on both approaches, recovered when PAH concentrations declined to their background levels, except in the high PAH level treatment.