Skip to main content

Bioremediation and the microbiome


5Gyres, courtesy of Oregon State University / CC BY-SA / No changes made (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/)Environmental Microbiome is inviting for consideration: research articles, methodologies, reviews and short papers investigating any aspect of environmental bioremediation involving microbial communities.

Microbial assemblages can form syntrophic associations resulting in the breakdown of recalcitrant polymers, including plastics and a wide range of other organic pollutants. Often the degradation cannot be achieved individually and these complex community interactions are critical to the breakdown of these compounds. Understanding how these communities work cooperatively, communicate and act to bioremediate environments is of great interest and importance. This is the same whether the environment is natural (e.g. rivers and lakes) or man-made (e.g. sewage systems and landfills). Such environmental microbiomes can interact at different trophic levels and with a range of higher organisms including, protozoans, microarthropods and nematodes, for example, including well-known interactions with key ecosystems players such as earthworms in soil.

Similar interactions can occur in marine and freshwater systems both in the planktonic and benthic phases, indeed studies are already investigating the microbiomes of microplastics and their role in dissemination of pathogens and also the concomitant degradation of the polymers. Microbial communities interact at the molecular level with their biotic and abiotic surroundings, forming integral parts of geochemical cycles (e.g. nitrogen, carbon, sulphur and water) and even helping to form the infrastructure that holds that environment in place e.g. the exoproteins formed by the bacterial community in soils hold the soil particles together.

A major challenge in studying such microbial assemblages is to establish their resilience and responses to pollutants and climatic impacts. Often polluted environments are a complex mixture or organic and inorganic contaminants, which can strongly attach to the environmental matrix. Past experience has indicated that indigenous organisms are often the best adapted to survive in the environmental conditions present and consortia  will emerge with capabilities to degrade pollutants and work in coordination with other groups in that environment. Oil spills are a good example of this in situ augmentation process whereby the addition of NPK has been shown  to enhance growth and aid the breakdown of oil by indigenous microorganisms.

Just in the same way that the human gut microbiome is essential for breakdown of plant polymers and critical for helping to supply our nutritional needs then so is the earth’s microbiome essential for a healthy environment to aid in the recycling of nutrients from natural and anthropogenic sources.

The impact of human activity such as the accumulation of plastic pollution, agricultural and industrial chemical waste being introduced to soils and rivers, and human-driven climate change are having adverse effects on our environments.

In this collection, Environmental Microbiome is looking for studies that seek to define and provide a better understanding of syntrophic communities capable of bioremediation and have used multi-omic approaches to establish activities and interactions of the microbial members. Particularly welcome are studies of microbial communities colonising pollutants such as plastics and microplastics with a defined role in their biodegradation. Both natural and constructed community studies are welcome.

Edited by Joy Watts

Submission Deadline: 31 March 2021

Submit your paper here.


There are currently no articles in this collection.