Abstract

Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene, and xylene (BTEX) are the most persistent and toxic organic contaminants often found co-contaminated in anthropogenic and petrochemical industrial sites. Therefore, an experiment was performed for the safe biodegradation of benzene and benzo[a]pyrene (BaP) through thermally-enhanced biodegradation, and to explore the influence of elevated thermal treatments on microbial diversity and composition. The results revealed that elevated thermal treatments (15 to 45 °C) significantly enhanced the diversity of both bacteria and fungi. The composition analysis revealed that short-term and long-term elevated temperature conditions can directly enhance the specificity of microorganisms that play a crucial role in the biodegradation of benzene and BaP co-contaminated soil. Moreover, the indirect role of elevated temperature conditions on microbial compositions was through the fluctuations of soil properties, especially soil pH, moisture, TOC, potassium, phosphorous, total Fe, Fe(II), and Fe(III). In addition, the correlation analyses revealed that thermal exposure enhances the synergistic association (fungal-fungal, fungal-bacterial, bacterial-bacterial) of microbes to degrade the toxic contaminants and to cope with harsh environmental conditions. These results concluded that the biodegradation of benzene and BaP co-contamination was efficiently enhanced under the thermally-enhanced biodegradation approach and the elevation of temperature can affect the microbial compositions directly via microbial specificity or indirectly by influencing the soil properties.

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