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Biodegradation by biofilm communities

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  03 June 2010

Gideon M. Wolfaardt
Affiliation:
Department of Microbiology, University of Stellenbosch, Private Bag X1, 7602 Stellenbosch, South Africa
Darren R. Korber
Affiliation:
Department of Applied Microbiology & Food Science, University of Saskatchewan,Saskatoon, SK, Canada S7N 5A8
Subramanian Karthikeyan
Affiliation:
Department of Applied Microbiology & Food Science, University of Saskatchewan,Saskatoon, SK, Canada S7N 5A8
Douglas E. Caldwell
Affiliation:
Department of Applied Microbiology & Food Science, University of Saskatchewan,Saskatoon, SK, Canada S7N 5A8
David G. Allison
Affiliation:
University of Manchester
P. Gilbert
Affiliation:
University of Manchester
H. M. Lappin-Scott
Affiliation:
University of Exeter
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Summary

INTRODUCTION

It has been shown that microbial communities contribute extensively to the attenuation, mineralization and transport of both organic and inorganic contaminants in the environment. The development of biofilms by microbial communities is often a key factor contributing to the overall efficiency of these processes (Rothemund et al., 1996). For instance, bacterial biofilms are able to accumulate metals through various mechanisms (Marques et al., 1991; Sillitoe et al., 1994). Liehr et al. (1994) showed that biofilms formed by algae could concentrate metals at levels more than four orders of magnitude higher than those in the surrounding water.

The potential of bioremediation as an alternative to physical and chemical remediation strategies has resulted in a significant amount of research effort on degradative biofilms. Although much emphasis has been placed on the degradation of xenobiotic compounds, the knowledge gained through these studies has also contributed to an improved understanding of processes involved in the degradation of naturally occurring molecules as well as nutrient cycling in general. Tank & Webster (1998) suggested that competition for nutrients might regulate heterotrophic microbial processes in natural streams. In their study, they found that nutrient immobilization by leaves partially inhibited other heterotrophic processes, as evidenced by low microbial respiration, fungal biomass and extracellular enzyme activity among wood biofilms in the presence of leaf litter. Lawrence et al. (1998) stressed the applicability of knowledge gained through the study of naturally occurring attenuation mechanisms to remediating contaminated environments. Clearly, the study of degradative biofilms is of both fundamental and applied interest.

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Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2000

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