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Ability of arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi to degrade BTEX

A mesocosm system was designed and constructed to evaluate the ability of arbuscular-mycorrhizal (AM) fungi to degrade BTEX hydrocarbons. Preliminar mycorrhization was achieved by inoculating 1-week leek seedlings with Glomus mosseae, Gigaspora margarita and Gi. rosea spores. After one month plants were transferred in pots, using a vermiculite-based substrate supplemented with benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene and xylene adsorbed on active carbon. The cultures were then transferred under isolated glass cabinets, and grown for 17 days.

The residual concentration of BTEXs in pot substrates and inside the system was quantified by gas-chromatography. A strong decrease of hydrocarbon concentration resulted in the mycorrhized samples, while in the substrate samples and in substrate of non-mycorrhized plant samples the amounts remained considerably higher. This observations suggest a clear connection between the arbuscular mycorrhiza and the decrease of hydrocarbon concentration.

This result provides new information about the possible use of AM fungi for the reclamation of BTEX hydrocarbon-polluted sites. These fungi are highly competitive-organisms, and therefore their use in remediation techniques could be more advantageous in comparison with bacteria, which are subjected to predation by other microorganisms and whose growth is conditioned by nutrient availability. The identification and selection of the most effective species could be an interesting topic also for small and medium enterprises, for the production of inocula especially for the reclamation of soils.

More information on the Genomyca -project can be found at:

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Università degli Studi del Piemonte Orientale "Amedeo Avogadro"
Dipartimento di Scienze dell'Ambiente e della Vita, Via Bellini 25/g
15100 Alessandria
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