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BIOTOOL — Result In Brief

Project ID: 3998
Funded under: FP6-SUSTDEV
Country: Germany

Can we predict the evolution of polluted environments?

A European consortium addressed the problem of environmental pollution by developing monitoring techniques for predicting the outcome of contaminated environmental sites.
Can we predict the evolution of polluted environments?
Natural attenuation refers to the reduction of contaminant concentrations in the environment through biological processes, physical or chemical phenomena. Exploitation of these processes to diagnose soil status can act as predictive tools of the evolution of contaminated soil and groundwater.

The objective of the EU ‘Biological procedures for diagnosing the status and predicting evolution of polluted environments’ (Biotool) project was to exploit biological processes as predictive tools for environmental pollution. The consortium polluted certain experimental sites with chlorinated or petroleum hydrocarbons and monitored their evolution by applying various techniques. The transport of indicator chemicals from below ground to above ground vegetation was used to evaluate sub-surface contamination.

Project partners discovered that the formation of fatty acids and phospholipid fatty acids in the soil could be utilised as a tool for assessing toxicity. Additionally, diagnosis of the biological status of a polluted environment was achieved using DNA array technology. In particular, certain gene families involved in aerobic and anaerobic catabolic pathways were used to assess natural microbial communities. Scientists realised that the interaction of microbes with the natural ecosystems could be exploited for bioremediation and natural attenuation. For this purpose, they utilised state-of-the-art proteomic technologies to locate protein biomarkers that could predict the evolution of contaminated soil.

Overall, the Biotool consortium developed a number of exploitable innovative protocols for predicting biodegradation in polluted environmental sites. Study achievements are expected to improve the use of natural attenuation processes as a remediation strategy across Europe.

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