Comparison of Hydrocarbon-Degrading Consortia from Surface and Deep Waters of the Eastern Mediterranean Sea: Characterization and Degradation Potential
The diversity and degradation capacity of hydrocarbon-degrading consortia from surface and deep waters of the Eastern Mediterranean Sea were studied in time-series experiments. Microcosms were set up in ONR7a medium at in situ temperatures of 25 °C and 14 °C for the Surface and Deep consortia, respectively, and crude oil as the sole source of carbon. The Deep consortium was additionally investigated at 25 °C to allow the direct comparison of the degradation rates to the Surface consortium. In total, ~50% of the alkanes and ~15% of the polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons were degraded in all treatments by Day 24. Approximately ~95% of the total biodegradation by the Deep consortium took place within 6 days regardless of temperature, whereas comparable levels of degradation were reached on Day 12 by the Surface consortium. Both consortia were dominated by well-known hydrocarbon-degrading taxa. Temperature played a significant role in shaping the Deep consortia communities with Pseudomonas and Pseudoalteromonas dominating at 25 °C and Alcanivorax at 14 °C. Overall, the Deep consortium showed a higher efficiency for hydrocarbon degradation within the first week following contamination, which is critical in the case of oil spills, and thus merits further investigation for its exploitation in bioremediation technologies tailored to the Eastern Mediterranean Sea.