Quantcast

Researcher Develops Innovative Way to Use Fungi for Bioremediation of Oil-Contaminated Soil

Through natural selection, adaptation and evolution, living organisms have been able to solve some of their most complex problems. As humans develop even more complex issues of our own, we are learning to look to nature as a model for solutions.  

Mycelium demonstrate a wide variety of biological powers, from breaking down oil, pesticides and harmful bacteria to acting as natural pesticides. Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

Earlier this month, new research emerged from Finland illustrating once again the amazingly powerful filtering properties of fungi. The findings of Erica Winquist in her dissertation for Aalto University show that fungi can be harnessed to clean polluted soil that otherwise may not be fit for disinfection using traditional methods.

Soil that has been polluted by organic compounds like oil can be treated by traditional approaches. However, such treatments are not effective against many other organic pollutants, such as polyaromatic hydrocarbons (PAH) and dioxins, which is where Winquist's research comes in. 

Fungus growing on the bark is placed into the soil in layers. Photo credit: Aalto University

Winquist's breakthrough findings suggest that new, low-cost bioremediation methods could strip contaminated soil of organic pollutants—like PAHs and dioxins—which would make it available for reuse. Currently the favored, easiest and cheapest method of disposal is taking excavated soil to landfills that accept it for construction of new landfill sites. According to Aalto University's news release, during 2005 and 2006, Finland transported almost 3 million tons of contaminated soil to landfills. A far more sustainable method would be to clean and repurpose the soil.

The procedure uses the mycelia of white rot fungi (Trametes versicolor) grown on pine bark—which is an ideal medium for growing fungi because the wood contains compounds that prevent the growth of other microbes. After four to six weeks the fungi culture is transferred to a treatment plant where the white rot mycelia grow in the polluted soil and break down the compounds with the very lignin-like structures that pollute it. In laboratory tests, up to 96 percent of PAH compounds and 64 percent of the dioxins were broken down in three months. The compounds are found in areas where there is distribution of fuels, waste treatment facilities and other various kinds of industry, like sawmills or prep plants, explains Winquist.

The pictures show how the fungus grows in the soil and on the surface. Photo credit: Aalto University

Exploring bioremediation as a real solution is slowly emerging around the world. This year in Oregon, the nonprofit Ocean Blue Project launched a project to test mushroom's ability to clean up pesticides that plague waterways

The research was carried out in cooperation with the University of Helsinki and the Finnish Environment Institute. Funding was provided through the Symbio programme run by Tekes, the Finnish Funding Agency for Technology and Innovation, as well as by the companies working with the program. 

--------

YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE

Mushrooms Used for Bioremediation to Clean Pesticides From Oregon Waterways

Research Find Trees in Borneo Soak Up More CO2 Than Trees in the Amazon Rainforest

Loss of Large Wildlife Leads to Increased Disease Risk in Humans

--------

Show Comments ()
Sponsored
vimeo.com

Video Shows Oil Company's Plans to Drill Arctic From Artificial Island

The Liberty Project has posted a video about its proposal to build the nation's first oil production platform in federal waters in the Arctic.

The video was quietly uploaded two months ago and shows Hilcorp Alaska's plan to build an artificial gravel island and undersea pipeline for its offshore drilling project in the Beaufort Sea. Frankly speaking, the five-minute clip—with its all-American voiceover and electric guitar riffs—is something you'd expect from a pickup truck commercial.

Keep reading... Show less
www.youtube.com

Scientists Discover Sea Levels Rose in Sharp Bursts During Last Warming

By Rice University

Scientists from Rice University and Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi's Harte Research Institute for Gulf of Mexico Studies have discovered that Earth's sea level did not rise steadily but rather in sharp, punctuated bursts when the planet's glaciers melted during the period of global warming at the close of the last ice age. The researchers found fossil evidence in drowned reefs offshore Texas that showed sea level rose in several bursts ranging in length from a few decades to one century.

The findings appeared Wednesday in Nature Communications.

Keep reading... Show less
Gemasolar 15 MW Parabolic Power Plant in Spain / Greenpeace

Quitting Coal: New Global Survey Names the Companies, Countries and Cities

More than a quarter of the 1,675 companies that owned or developed coal-fired power capacity since 2010 have entirely left the coal power business, according to new research from CoalSwarm and Greenpeace. This represents nearly 370 large coal-fired power plants—enough to power around six United Kingdoms—and equivalent to nearly half a trillion dollars in assets retired or not developed.

While many generating companies go through this rapid makeover, the research also shows that a total of 23 countries, states and cities will have either phased out coal-fired power plants or set a timeline to do so by 2030.

Keep reading... Show less
Roderick Eime / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

New Evidence Suggests Ancient Egypt Was Brought Down By Volcanoes and Climate Change

Ancient Egypt is often described as an exotic place—pyramids, hieroglyphics, lavishly worshipped kings and queens.

But in many ways, it has a lot of parallels to modern life. It was an economically diverse, culturally vibrant and unequal place.

The millenniums-old society also struggled with a phenomenon that people today know all too well: climate change. And it may have ultimately led to the civilization's demise, according to a new paper by a team of researchers at Yale University.

The team of researchers studied the tail-end of ancient Egypt during the Ptolemaic dynasty between 305-30 BCE.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
Portuguese youth plaintiffs, from left to right: Simão and Leonor; Cláudia, Martim and Mariana; André and Sofia. Global Legal Action Network

Kids Harmed by Portugal Fires Reach Key Crowdfunding Goal for Climate Lawsuit

As Portugal reels from its worst wildfires on record, seven Portuguese children have met an important crowdfunding goal for their major climate lawsuit against 47 European nations.

More than £20,000 ($26,400) was pledged by 589 people, allowing the Global Legal Action Network (GLAN)—the nonprofit coordinating the lawsuit—to identify and compile evidence to present to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, France. GLAN now has a new stretch target of £100,000.

Keep reading... Show less
Flying insects such as bees are important pollinators. Flickr / M I T C H Ǝ L L

German Nature Reserves Have Lost More Than 75% of Flying Insects

A new study published Wednesday in the journal PLOS ONE adds more evidence that insect populations around the globe are in perilous decline.

For the study, researchers from Radboud University in the Netherlands, alongside their German and English colleagues, measured the biomass of trapped flying insects at 63 nature preserves in Germany since 1989. They were shocked to discover that the total biomass decreased dramatically over the 27 years of the study, with a seasonal decline of 76 percent and mid-summer decline of 82 percent, when insect numbers tend to peak.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
Politics

Pushing Toxic Chemicals and Climate Denial: The Dark Money-Funded Independent Women’s Forum

By Stacy Malkan

The Independent Women's Forum is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit that has taken money from tobacco and oil companies, partners with Monsanto, defends toxic chemicals in food and consumer products, denies climate science and argues against laws that would curb the power of corporations.

IWF began in 1991 as an effort to defend now Supreme Court Justice (and former Monsanto attorney) Clarence Thomas as he faced sexual harassment charges. The group now says it seeks to "improve the lives of Americans by increasing the number of women who value free markets and personal liberty."

Keep reading... Show less
Mladen Kostic / iStock

Toxic Toys? After Nine Years, a Ban on Harmful Chemicals Becomes Official

Phthalates are a particularly harmful type of chemical, used, among a range of other ways, to soften plastic in children's toys and products like pacifiers and teething rings. In response to mounting concern about the serious health impacts of phthalates—most notably, interference with hormone production and reproductive development in young children—Congress voted overwhelmingly in 2008 to outlaw the use of a few phthalates in these products and ordered the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) to assess the use of other types of the chemical in these products. After much delay, the CPSC voted 3–2 Wednesday to ban five additional types of phthalates in kids' toys and childcare products.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored

mail-copy

Get EcoWatch in your inbox