Presence of Actinobacterial and Fungal Communities in Clean and Petroleum Hydrocarbon Contaminated Subsurface Soil

Katarina Björklöf1, *, Sanja Karlsson1, Åsa Frostegård2, Kirsten S Jørgensen1
1 Finnish Environment Institute, P.O. Box 140, FIN-00251 Helsinki, Finland
2 Dep. of Chemistry, Biotechnology and Food Science, Norwegian University of Life Sciences, P.O. Box 5003, N-1432 Aas, Norway

Article Metrics

CrossRef Citations:
Total Statistics:

Full-Text HTML Views: 4062
Abstract HTML Views: 2776
PDF Downloads: 723
Total Views/Downloads: 7561
Unique Statistics:

Full-Text HTML Views: 1628
Abstract HTML Views: 1543
PDF Downloads: 503
Total Views/Downloads: 3674

Creative Commons License
© Björklöf et al.; Licensee Bentham Open.

open-access license: This is an open access article licensed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial License ( which permits unrestricted, non-commercial use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the work is properly cited.

* Address correspondence to this author at the Finnish Environment Institute, P.O. Box 140, FIN-00251 Helsinki, Finland; E-mail:


Relatively little is known about the microbial communities adapted to soil environments contaminated with aged complex hydrocarbon mixtures, especially in the subsurface soil layers. In this work we studied the microbial communities in two different soil profiles down to the depth of 7 m which originated from a 30-year-old site contaminated with petroleum hydrocarbons (PHCs) and from a clean site next to the contaminated site. The concentration of oxygen in the contaminated soil profile was strongly reduced in soil layers below 1 m depth but not in the clean soil profile. Total microbial biomass and community composition was analyzed by phospholipid fatty acid (PLFA) measurements. The diversity of fungi and actinobacteria was investigated more in detail by construction of rDNA-based clone libraries. The results revealed that there was a significant and diverse microbial community in subsoils at depth below 2 m, also in conditions where oxygen was limiting. The diversity of actinobacteria was different in the two soil profiles; the contaminated soil profile was dominated by Mycobacterium -related sequences whereas sequences from the clean soil samples were related to other, generally uncultured organisms, some of which may represent two new subclasses of actinobacteria. One dominating fungal sequence which matched with the ascomycotes Acremonium sp. and Paecilomyces sp. was identified both in clean and in contaminated soil profiles. Thus, although the relative amounts of fungi and actinobacteria in these microbial communities were highest in the upper soil layers, many representatives from these groups were found in hydrocarbon contaminated subsoils even under oxygen limited conditions.