Aliphatic hydrocarbons make up a substantial portion of organic contamination in the terrestrial environment. However, most studies have focussed on the fate and behaviour of aromatic contaminants in soil. Despite structural differences between aromatic and aliphatic hydrocarbons, both classes of contaminants are subject to physicochemical processes, which can affect the degree of loss, sequestration and interaction with soil microflora. Given the nature of hydrocarbon contamination of soils and the importance of bioremediation strategies, understanding the fate and behaviour of aliphatic hydrocarbons is imperative, particularly microbe-contaminant interactions. Biodegradation by microbes is the key removal process of hydrocarbons in soils, which is controlled by hydrocarbon physicochemistry, environmental conditions, bioavailability and the presence of catabolically active microbes. Therefore, the aims of this review are (i) to consider the physicochemical properties of aliphatic hydrocarbons and highlight mechanisms controlling their fate and behaviour in soil; (ii) to discuss the bioavailability and bioaccessibility of aliphatic hydrocarbons in soil, with particular attention being paid to biodegradation, and (iii) to briefly consider bioremediation techniques that may be applied to remove aliphatic hydrocarbons from soil.
Summer Conference on Living Together - Polymicrobial Communities, Edinburgh, SCOTLAND, JUL 03-06, 2006