Comparative assessment of fungal augmentation treatments of a fine-textured and historically oil-contaminated soil.
The removal of aged hydrophobic contaminants from fine-textured soils is a challenging issue in remediation. The objective of this study was to compare the efficacy of augmentation treatments to that of biostimulation in terms of total aliphatic hydrocarbon (TAH) and toxicity removal from a historically contaminated clay soil and to assess their impact on the resident microbial community. To this aim, Pleurotus ostreatus, Botryosphaeria rhodina and a combination of both were used as the inoculants while the addition of a sterilized lignocellulose mixture to soil (1:5, w/w) was used as a biostimulation approach. As opposed to the non-amended control soil, where no changes in TAH concentration and residual toxicity were observed after 60 days, the activation of specialized bacteria was found in the biostimulated microcosms resulting in significant TAH removal (79.8%). The bacterial community structure in B. rhodina-augmented microcosms did not differ from the biostimulated microcosms due to the inability of the fungus to be retained within the resident microbiota. Best TAH removals were observed in microcosms inoculated with P. ostreatus alone (Po) and in binary consortium with B. rhodina (BC) (86.8 and 88.2%, respectively). In these microcosms, contaminant degradation exceeded their bioavailability thresholds determined by sequential supercritical CO2 extraction. Illumina metabarcoding of 16S rRNA gene showed that the augmentation with Po and BC led to lower relative abundances of Gram(+) taxa, Actinobacteria in particular, than those in biostimulated microcosms. Best detoxification, with respect to the non-amended incubation control, was found in Po microcosms where a drop in collembola mortality (from 90 to 22%) occurred. At the end of incubation, in both Po and BC, the relative abundances of P. ostreatus sequences were higher than 60% thus showing the suitability of this fungus in bioaugmentation-based remediation applications.