Co-contaminations of soils with organic and inorganic pollutants are a frequent environmental problem. Due to their toxicity and recalcitrance, the heterogeneous pollutants may persist in soil. The hypothesis of this study was that degradation of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) is enhanced if heavy metals in soil are immobilized and their bioavailability reduced. For metal immobilization and enhanced biodegradation, distinct mineral and organic soil amendments (iron oxides, gravel sludge, biochar) were deployed in an incubation batch experiment. The second part of the experiment consisted of a greenhouse pot experiment applying fast-growing and pollution-tolerant woody plants (willow and black locust). Soil amendments initially immobilized NH4NO3-extractable zinc, cadmium, and lead; after 100 days of incubation, soil amendments showed reductions only for cadmium and a tendency to enhance arsenic mobility. In order to monitor the remediation success, a 13C-phenanthrene (PHE) label was applied. 13C-phospholipid fatty acid analysis (13C-PLFA) further enabled the identification of PHE-degrading soil microorganisms. Both experiments exhibited a similar PLFA profile. Gram-negative bacteria (esp. cy17:0, 16:1ω7 + 6, 18:1ω7c) were the most significant microbial group taking up 13C-PHE. Plants effectively increased the label uptake by gram-positive bacteria and increased the biomass of the fungal biomarker, although their contribution to the degradation process was minor. Plants tended to prolong PAH dissipation in soil; at the end of the experiment, however, all treatments showed equally low total PAH concentrations in soil. While black locust plants tended not to take up potentially toxic trace elements, willows accumulated them in their leaves. The results of this study show that the chosen treatments did not enhance the remediation of the experimental soil.
- Ehemaliges Research Field - Energy