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Predicting the effects of biochar on volatile petroleum hydrocarbon biodegradation and emanation from soil: A bacterial community finger-print analysis inferred modelling approach

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Paola MeynetORCiD, Professor Russell DavenportORCiD, Professor William Sloan, Professor David WernerORCiD



We investigated the response of the dominant bacterial taxa in gravelly sand to the addition of biochar and/or mixtures of volatile petroleum hydrocarbons (VPHs) using denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis (DGGE) and sequencing of cut bands. Biochar addition alone had only weak effects on the soil bacterial community composition in batch study samples, while VPH addition had strong effects. Indirect effects of biochar on soil bacterial communities were apparent in column study samples, where biochar-enhanced sorption affected VPH spreading. Following VPH addition, cell abundance increased by no more than a factor of 2 and several Pseudomonas spp. became dominant in soil with and without biochar. We present a VPH fate model that considers soil bacterial biomass dynamics and a nutrient limited soil biomass carrying capacity. The model simulates an apparent lag phase before the onset of a brief period of intensive VPH biodegradation and biomass growth, which is followed by substantially slower VPH biodegradation, when nitrogen needs to be recycled between decaying and newly formed biomass. If biomass growth is limited by a factor other than the organic pollutant bioavailability, biochar amendment may enhance VPH attenuation in between a VPH source below ground and the atmosphere by reducing the risk of overloading the soil's biodegradation capacity.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Meynet P, Moliterni E, Davenport RJ, Sloan WT, Camacho JV, Werner D

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Soil Biology and Biochemistry

Year: 2014

Volume: 68

Pages: 20-30

Print publication date: 01/01/2014

Online publication date: 24/09/2013

Acceptance date: 10/09/2013

Date deposited: 25/03/2014

ISSN (print): 0038-0717

ISSN (electronic): 1879-3428

Publisher: Pergamon


DOI: 10.1016/j.soilbio.2013.09.015


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Funder referenceFunder name
EP/F008473/1Engineering and Physical Research Council (EPSRC)
EP/I025782/1Engineering and Physical Research Council (EPSRC) Challenging Engineering