New research published in Applied and Environmental Microbiology, a publication of the American Society for Microbiology, states that marine bacteria found in the cold seas of the Canadian Arctic are capable of biodegrading oil and diesel fuel.

Coauthor Casey Hubert, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Geomicrobiology at the University of Calgary, said that genomic sequencing showed incredible potential for hydrocarbon bioremediation in bacteria lineages such as Paraperlucidibaca, Cycloclasticus, and Zhongshania.

According to the report, these "may be crucial participants in response to Arctic maritime oil disasters," according to the report.

Introducing Additional Nutrients

According to Dr. Hubert, "the study also demonstrated that adding nutrients might improve hydrocarbon biodegradation under these low-temperature conditions."

"These persistently frigid seas are witnessing more industrial activity connected to marine transport and offshore oil and gas sector activities," Dr. Hubert explained.

Sean Murphy, a student of Dr. Hubert's who grew up in the area, was the driving force behind the initiative.

Mr. Murphy, ERM Canada's Aquatic Scientist, had noted both the benefits offshore oil had brought to the people of Newfoundland and Labrador, but had also been deeply troubled by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill and had focused his master's research on the Labrador Sea to "help inform future oil spill mitigation strategies... at cold temperatures in the region."

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Labrador Coast's Environmental Make-Up

Labrador Coast
(Photo : Wikimedia Commons)

The Labrador coast, where the study was conducted, is crucial for Indigenous peoples who rely on the ocean for sustenance. Unfortunately, there has been a paucity of bioremediation studies thus far north, unlike at lower latitudes.

"As climate change lengthens ice-free seasons and increases industrial activity in the Arctic, it is critical to understand how the Arctic marine microbiome will adapt if an oil or fuel spill occurs," Dr. Hubert stated. This is critical because "this region remains large and inaccessible, making oil spill emergency response complex and slow."

Replicating Oil Spill Cleanups

Cleanup Effort After Suspected Oil Spill Off Israel's Coast
(Photo : (Photo by Amir Levy/Getty Images))

To replicate oil spill cleanup within bottles, the researchers used dirt from the first few centimeters of the bottom, artificial seawater, diesel or crude oil, and other nutritional additions in varying quantities.

The trials lasted many weeks and were conducted at 4°C to simulate the temperature in the Labrador Sea. Dr. Hubert explained, "Our models revealed that naturally occurring oil-degrading bacteria in the water constitute nature's initial responses to an oil disaster."

American Society for Microbiology

Shark's semen samples monitored under a microscope
(Photo : Getty Images)

The American Society for Microbiology (ASM) is one of the largest professional organizations dedicated to the life sciences, with 30,000 scientists and healthcare professionals. The aim of the American Society for Microbiology is to promote and develop microbial research.

ASM advances the microbial sciences through conferences, publications, certifications, training opportunities, and advocacy activities. Through training and resources, it improves laboratory capacity all around the world.

In addition, it connects scientists working in academia, industry, and clinical settings. ASM also encourages a better knowledge of microbial sciences across a diverse range of audiences.

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