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27.12: Bioremediation
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27.12: Bioremediation

Bioremediation is the use of prokaryotes, fungi, or plants to remove pollutants from the environment. This process has been used to remove harmful toxins in groundwater as a byproduct of agricultural run-off and also to clean up oil spills.

Agricultural Bioremediation

Bioremediation is a useful process in which microbes and bacteria are used to remove toxins and pollutants from the environment. In agricultural practices, the use of fertilizers and pesticides can result in leaching of chemicals into the groundwater, streams and lakes. For example, atrazine—an environmental toxin found in many fertilizers—can be broken down and removed from soils using two common environmental bacterial species, Rhizobium and Tricoderma sp.

Industrial Bioremediation

Oil spills often contribute to the loss of marine biodiversity. However, nutrient addition to aquatic areas affected by an oil spill promote the growth of hydrocarbon-degrading bacteria that will break down petroleum. For example, in one study, scientists tested the ability of a naturally occurring consortium of bacterial symbionts of the coral Mussismilia hartii, to break down oil. Not only can they degrade petroleum hydrocarbons minimizing effects of oil on the health of the coral species, but they can dually promote photosynthetic efficiency of the coral.


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