Bioremediation of Petroleum-Contaminated Soils with Biosurfactant-Producing Degraders Isolated from the Native Desert Soils

Zheng Li, Ravid Rosenzweig, Fengxian Chen, Ji Qin, Tianyi Li, Jincheng Han, Paula Istvan, Damiana Diaz-Reck, Faina Gelman, Gilboa Arye, Zeev Ronen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


A crude oil spill in 2014 resulted in extensive soil contamination of the hyper arid Evrona Nature Reserve in Israel’s Negev Desert. The contaminated soils became highly hydrophobic, threatening the existence of plants in the habitat. We hypothesized that bioaugmenting the soil with indigenous biosurfactant-producing, hydrocarbon-degrading bacteria (HDB) would accelerate the reduction in the soil’s hydrophobicity. We aimed to isolate and characterize biosurfactant-producing HDBs from the desert-contaminated soil and test if they can be used for augmenting the soil. Twelve hydrocarbon-degrading strains were isolated, identified as Pseudomonas, and classified as biosurfactants “producing” and “nonproducing”. Inoculating 109 CFU/g of “producing” strains into the polluted soil resulted in a 99.2% reduction in soil hydrophobicity within seven days. At the same time, nonproducing strains reduced hydrophobicity by only 17%, while no change was observed in the untreated control. The microbial community in the inoculated soil was dominated by the introduced strains over 28 days, pointing to their persistence. Rhamnolipid biosynthesis gene rhlAB remained persistent in soil inoculated with biosurfactants, indicating in situ production. We propose that the success of the treatment is due to the use of inoculum enriched from the polluted soil.

Original languageEnglish
Article number2267
Number of pages17
Issue number11
StatePublished - 15 Nov 2022


  • bioremediation
  • biosurfactant producers
  • desert soils
  • hydrocarbon degraders
  • petroleum contamination
  • soil hydrophobicity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology
  • Microbiology (medical)
  • Virology


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