A Canadian study has found that marine bacteria are capable of biodegrading oil and diesel even in frigid Arctic waters. The study, “Biodegradation of diesel and crude oil by Labrador Sea cold adapted microbial communities,” published in Applied and Environmental Microbiology, is important because there has been little research done on bioremediation of oil spills in very cold waters.
“Most of the studies that look at oil-eating bacteria are from lower latitudes,” said Dr. Casey Hubert, associate professor of geomicrobiology at the University of Calgary and co-author of the study, in an interview with CTV News.
The study also found that some groups of bacteria not previously known to be capable of oil degradation can in fact carry out the process.
Researchers discovered, as well, that the addition of nutrients, including nitrogen and phosphorous, enhances the biodegradation process.
“Based on the study,” said Hubert, “we’re optimistic that there are indeed microbial populations in the Labrador Sea that would respond” in the case of an oil spill.