Biological degradation is the main process for oil degradation in a subsurface oil plume. There is, however, little information on the biodegradation potential of Arctic, marine subsurface environments. We therefore investigated oil biodegradation in microcosms at 2 °C containing Arctic subsurface seawater from the Disko Bay (Greenland) and crude oil at three concentrations of 2.5-10 mg/L. Within 71 days, the total petroleum hydrocarbon concentration decreased only by 18 ± 18% for an initial concentration of 5 mg/L. The saturated alkanes nC13-nC30 and the isoprenoids iC18-iC21 were biodegraded at all concentrations indicating a substantial potential for biodegradation of these compound classes. Polycyclic aromatic compounds (PACs) disappeared from the oil phase, but dissolution was the main process of removal. Analysis of diagnostic ratios indicated almost no PAC biodegradation except for the C1-naphthalenes. To conclude, the marine subsurface microorganisms from the Disko Bay had the potential for biodegradation of n-alkanes and isoprenoids while the metabolically complex and toxic PACs and their alkylated homologs remained almost unchanged.
Increased economic activity in the Arctic may increase the risk of oil spills. Yet, little is known about the degradation of oil spills by solar radiation and the impact of nutrient limitation on oil biodegradation under Arctic conditions. We deployed adsorbents coated with thin oil films for up to 4 months in a fjord in SW Greenland to simulate and investigate in situ biodegradation and photo-oxidation of dispersed oil droplets. Oil compound depletion by dissolution, biodegradation, and photo-oxidation was untangled by gas chromatography-mass spectrometry-based oil fingerprinting. Biodegradation was limited by low nutrient concentrations, reaching 97% removal of nC13-26-alkanes only after 112 days. Sequencing of bacterial DNA showed the slow development of a bacterial biofilm on the oil films predominated by the known oil degrading bacteria Oleispira, Alkanindiges and Cycloclasticus. These taxa could be related to biodegradation of shorter-chain (=C26) alkanes, longer-chain (=C16) and branched alkanes, and polycyclic aromatic compounds (PACs), respectively. The combination of biodegradation, dissolution, and photo-oxidation depleted most PACs at substantially faster rates than the biodegradation of alkanes. In Arctic fjords during summer, nutrient limitation may severely delay oil biodegradation, but in the photic zone, photolytic transformation of PACs may play an important role.
Although most point sources of persistent organic pollutants (POPs), including polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), are at lower latitudes, the Arctic region is contaminated. In particular, PAHs now dominate the POP body burden of the region's marine biota at the lower trophic levels. Greenlandic Inuits have the most elevated levels of POPs in their blood compared to any other population, due to their consumption of seal meat and other marine mammals. PAHs, the by-products of the incomplete combustion of petroleum products, are known carcinogens and have been shown to affect the immune system, reproduction, endocrine functions, and the nervous system. With industrial activities and climate change set to increase local PAH emissions, it is paramount to document changes in atmospheric PAH deposition to further investigate PAH exposure in the region and attribute contaminations to their sources. As a measure of atmospheric pollution, we sampled bryophyte herbarium specimens of three common and widespread species collected in Greenland between the 1920s and 1970s after which time new collections were not available. They were analyzed for 19 PAHs using GC-MS (gas chromatography mass spectrometry). The presence of more low-molecular-weight PAHs than high-molecular-weight PAHs is evidence that the PAH contamination in Greenland is due to long-range transport rather than originating from local sources. The results show peaks in PAH atmospheric deposition in the first part of the 19th century followed by a trend of decrease, which mirror global trends in atmospheric pollution known from those periods. PAHs associated with wood and fossil-fuel combustion decrease in the 1970s coinciding with the disappearance of charcoal pits and foundries in Europe and North America, and a shift away from domestic heating with wood during the 19th century. The results highlight the value of bryophytes as bioindicators to measure PAH atmospheric pollution as well as the unrealized potential of herbaria as historical records of environmental change.
A full-scale, experimental landfarm was tested for the capacity to biodegrade oil-polluted soil under high-Arctic tundra conditions in northeast Greenland at the military outpost 9117 Station Mestersvig. Soil contaminated with Arctic diesel was transferred to the landfarm in August 2012 followed by yearly addition of fertilizer and plowing and irrigation to optimize microbial diesel biodegradation. Biodegradation was determined from changes in total petroleum hydrocarbons (TPH), enumeration of specific subpopulations of oil-degrading microorganisms (MPN), and changes in selected classes of alkylated isomers and isomer ratios. Sixty-four percent of the diesel was removed in the landfarm within the first year, but a recalcitrant fraction (18%) remained after five years. n-alkanes and naphthalenes were biodegraded as demonstrated by changing isomer ratios. Dibenzothiophenes and phenanthrenes showed almost constant isomer ratios indicating that their removal was mostly abiotic. Oil-degrading microorganisms were present for the major components of diesel (n-alkanes, alkylbenzenes and alkylnaphthalenes). The degraders showed very large population increases in the landfarm with a peak population of 1.2 × 109 cells g-1 of total diesel degraders. Some diesel compounds such as cycloalkanes, hydroxy-PAHs and sulfur-heterocycles had very few or no specific degraders, these compounds may consequently be degraded only by slow co-metabolic processes or not at all.
Arctic Research Centre, Aarhus University, Aarhus, Denmark; Section for Microbiology and Center for Geomicrobiology, Department of Bioscience, Aarhus University, Aarhus, Denmark. Electronic address: firstname.lastname@example.org.
In pristine sea ice-covered Arctic waters the potential of natural attenuation of oil spills has yet to be uncovered, but increasing shipping and oil exploitation may bring along unprecedented risks of oil spills. We deployed adsorbents coated with thin oil films for up to 2.5 month in ice-covered seawater and sea ice in Godthaab Fjord, SW Greenland, to simulate and investigate in situ biodegradation and photooxidation of dispersed oil. GC-MS-based chemometric methods for oil fingerprinting were used to identify characteristic signatures for dissolution, biodegradation and photooxidation. In sub-zero temperature seawater, fast degradation of n-alkanes was observed with estimated half-life times of ~7 days. PCR amplicon sequencing and qPCR quantification of bacterial genes showed that a biofilm with a diverse microbial community colonised the oil films, yet a population related to the psychrophilic hydrocarbonoclastic gammaproteobacterium Oleispira antarctica seemed to play a key role in n-alkane degradation. Although Oleispira populations were also present in sea ice, we found that biofilms in sea ice had 25 to 100 times lower bacterial densities than in seawater, which explained the non-detectable n-alkane degradation in sea ice. Fingerprinting revealed that photooxidation, but not biodegradation, transformed polycyclic aromatic compounds through 50?cm-thick sea ice and in the upper water column with removal rates up to ~1% per day. Overall, our results showed a fast biodegradation of n-alkanes in sea ice-covered seawater, but suggested that oils spills will expose the Arctic ecosystem to bio-recalcitrant PACs over prolonged periods of time.
Despite increased interest in marine oil exploration in the Arctic, little is known about the fate of Arctic offshore oil pollution. Therefore, in the present study, we examine the oil degradation potential for an Arctic site (Disko Bay, Greenland) and discuss this in relation to a temperate site (North Sea, Denmark). Biodegradation was assessed following exposure to Oseberg Blend crude oil (100mgL(-1)) in microcosms. Changes in oil hydrocarbon fingerprints of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), alkyl-substituted PAHs, dibenzothiophenes, n-alkanes and alkyltoluenes were measured by gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (GC-MS). In the Disko Bay sample, the degradation order was n-alkanes>alkyltoluenes (para->meta->ortho-isomers)>PAHs and dibenzothiophenes, whereas, the degradation order in the North Sea samples was PAHs and dibenzothiophenes>alkyltoluenes>n-alkanes. These differences in degradation patterns significantly affect the environmental risk of oil spills and emphasise the need to consider the specific environmental conditions when conducting risk assessments of Arctic oil pollution.
Road runoff is an important source of pollution to the aquatic environment, and sedimentation ponds have been installed to mitigate effects on the aquatic environment. The purpose of this study was to investigate if a) fish from sedimentation ponds were affected by road pollution and; b) the transfer of PAHs from road runoff material to aquatic organisms was substantial. Minnow from a sedimentation pond (Skullerud) near Oslo (Norway) had higher levels of CYP1A enzyme and DNA stand breaks than minnow from the nearby river, but high concentrations of PAH-metabolites in bile revealed that both populations were highly exposed. Principal component analysis revealed that CYP1A and age of fish were correlated, while levels of PAH-metabolites were not correlated to CYP1A or DNA damage. Minnow from a lake un-affected by traffic had much lower levels of PAH-metabolites than the exposed fish, and also an improved condition. The latter results indicate that fish health was affected by road runoff. A closer investigation of PAH levels of the ecosystems of two sedimentation ponds (Skullerud and Vassum) and nearby environments were conducted. The concentration of the 16 EPA PAHs in sediments of the sedimentation ponds were high (1900-4200ngg(-1)), and even higher levels were observed in plants. Principal component analysis of selected ion chromatograms of PAHs showed a clear separation of plants vs. sediments. The plants preferentially accumulated the high molecular PAHs, both from sedimentation ponds with a petrogenic PAH isomer ratio in sediments; and from a lake with pyrogenic PAH isomer ratio in sediments.
Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) are produced by anthropogenic activities, such as traffic and domestic heating. Due to their adverse effects to humans and natural habitats, the presence of PAHs in the environment needs to be monitored. Plants are known as natural accumulators of persistent organic pollutants (POPs) and can therefore be used for the monitoring of PAHs emitted into the environment. Contamination by PAHs also occurs in the Arctic such as Greenland due to long-range transport through air. However, as anthropogenic activities in the Arctic are increasing, there is a need to investigate the distribution of PAHs due to local emission sources. In this study, we present a systematic sampling approach to identify the influence of PAH sources in an area next to the town of Ilulissat in Greenland. Composite crowberry samples have been collected north of Ilulissat, where the town itself, an incineration site and Ilulissat airport are possible emission sources for PAHs. Matrix solid-phase extraction was used for the extraction of PAHs and the chemical analysis was performed by gas chromatography with mass spectrometry detection (GC-MS). In total, 18 out of 19 investigated PAHs could be detected in Empetrum nigrum in a concentration range of 0.69 to 93.01 µg/kgdry weight. Higher concentrations for most of the targeted PAHs were found close to the suspected emission sources and also along the road connecting them. For pyrene, the correlation between the concentration and the distance from the emission sources could be modelled and visualized using a two-dimensional exponential variogram and ordinary kriging. The range in which the samples were spatially correlated was approximately 500 m. Our results show that local emission sources contribute to the spatial distribution patterns of PAHs. Monitoring of pollution by airborne PAHs is therefore needed even in areas far from major pollution sources such as Ilulissat, Greenland. E. nigrum showed to be a feasible species for biomonitoring of PAHs due to its large abundance in the sampling area and its widespread availability in the Artic region.
Polycyclic aromatic compounds (PACs) possess toxicity towards humans, and their presence in the environment is unwanted. Polar transformation products (TPs) are more mobile, and can be considered emerging contaminants, as they represent a more bioavailable carrier of the same toxic properties. Acidic TPs has been proposed as an important class of polar TPs. This study presents a tiered analytical approach to investigate acidic and polar PAC TPs in environmental conditions. The tiered approach exploits target analysis for quantification of acids; suspect screening for tentative identification based on retention time and spectral matching using databases; and finally non-target analysis based on chromatography and data independent broadband MS to highlight potentially unknown analyte peaks. The approach includes a mixed-mode anion exchange solid phase extraction (MAX-SPE) to fractionate neutral and acidic compounds, and is applied to three cases: I) Photo-oxidation of six PACs generated suspected hydroxylated-, carbonylated- and carboxylated PACs but also proposed the presence of mono- and dicarboxylic acids, which have not been reported elsewhere. For a subset of four acids, conversion rates were determined. II) Recovery of spiked acids from diesel spilled harbor water was 80% by LC-MS, and diesel spill weathering was evaluated from the neutral fraction by GC-MS. III) By non-target analysis sulfonated PACs, presumable derived from photo-oxidation, were detected in run-off basins of an arctic landfarm, alongside hypothesized naturally occuring fatty acids. The tiered approach is a sensitive and versatile tool to extract information on PACs and their polar TPs from polluted environmental sites.