Bioremediation: What It Is, Types and Examples - Summary

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It is already public knowledge that with our daily activities we generate waste that affects the environment: from the soil in which we grow our food, the water we drink and even the air we breathe. In short, the pollution of the environment threatens our own well-being.

Fortunately, scientists and researchers have developed techniques to try to restore environments damaged by pollution. One of those techniques is bioremediation. Have you ever heard of her? If you want to know everything about this process originated from biotechnology, do not miss this article by Ecologist Verde in which we will develop everything about what is bioremediation, its types and examples.

What is bioremediation

Let's start by knowing what the meaning of bioremediation is. Bioremediation is defined as any biotechnological process who employs organisms to recover a polluted environmentIt can be both a terrestrial and an aquatic environment.

So if you wonder what is used for bioremediation, the answer is simple: living organisms. However, not all living organisms can be used in the bioremediation of environments. In reality, organisms are chosen according to their qualities to immobilize, mineralize or degrade polluting compounds and special attention is paid to their enzymes. In general, the organisms most used in bioremediation processes are bacteria, fungi and plants. Organisms are sometimes genetically modified so that their qualities are closer to those necessary for bioremediation.

Learn more about What is biotechnology and what it is for by reading this other article.

Types of bioremediation

Bioremediation is so complex that it can be classified into multiple types depending on the chosen criteria. Let's look at three types of bioremediation classification here.

According to the bioremediation strategy

  • Biostimulation. This type of bioremediation strategy takes advantage of the particularities of the organisms that are already in the soil or body of water to be treated and seeks to adapt the environmental conditions to promote their development and the consequent degradation of pollutants. In summary, biostimulation consists of incorporating nutrients or modifying environmental variables such as the pH of the soil or water.
  • Bioaugmentation. This other bioremediation strategy involves the incorporation of organisms, which have the ability to degrade the compounds, to a contaminated environment. In this way, the aim is to optimize the remediation process.

Depending on where the bioremediation is done

  • In situ bioremediation. In situ bioremediation techniques are those that are carried out in the very place where the contaminant is, without the need to transfer the substrate. It is generally used when there is a very large volume of water or soil involved in the contamination.
  • Ex situ bioremediation. They are those bioremediation techniques, where the contaminated water or soil is extracted and treated in specific facilities for that purpose. Unlike the previous one, this technique is used for small volumes.

According to the organisms used for bioremediation

  • Enzymatic degradation. This technique refers to the exclusive use of enzymes to remedy a contaminated environment.
  • Microbial bioremediation. In this case, it refers to the use of bacteria and fungi to remediate the contaminated site. We are looking for species that are capable of metabolizing contaminating compounds.
  • Phytoremediation. Here bioremediation is carried out exclusively by plants. There are several types of phytoremediation depending on the qualities of the plants: some are capable of degrading the compounds, others of immobilizing them in their leaves, and so on.

Examples of bioremediation

Typically, bioremediation is used to reclaim environments that have been contaminated by hydrocarbons, such as oil, pesticides, heavy metals, waste from various sources, and more.

  • The presence of heavy metals in water and soil causes severe health impacts. Plants are capable of extracting heavy metals from substrates by adsorbing them. As an example of plant species used for remediation of environments contaminated with heavy metals we can mention Thlaspi caerulescens that adsorbs cadmium and Chrysopogon zizanioides which adsorbs zinc and lead. Here you can read about the problem of heavy metal contamination in water.
  • For his part, fungus Pycnoporus sanguineusIt also has a high efficiency in the adsorption of heavy metals in aqueous solution, in particular lead, cadmium and copper. In addition, this fungal species could be used for soil bioremediation, specifically for those soils contaminated with oil spills, since it is capable of growing on this compound and tolerating high temperatures.
  • Continuing with the examples of microorganisms used in bioremediation, cyanobacteria and green algae present characteristics conducive to being used as hydrocarbon biodegraders. Studies have shown the ability of cyanobacteria belonging to the genus Spirulina to degrade specific compounds in oil. We recommend you get to know them better by reading these other articles about Cyanobacteria: what they are, characteristics and examples and Green Algae: what they are, characteristics, types and examples.

Advantages and disadvantages of bioremediation

In this section we will mention the advantages and disadvantages of bioremediation.

Advantages of bioremediation

  • It is cheaper compared to other physical-chemical treatments.
  • These are simple techniques.
  • It is a minimally invasive technology, so it does not generate waste and is consequently friendly to the environment.
  • It demands little energy.
  • It can be used as a complement to other techniques.

Disadvantages of bioremediation

  • Unlike other treatments, bioremediation requires longer periods of time to achieve expected results.
  • It is difficult to predict the complete functioning of the treatment.
  • Pollutants are not completely eliminated, a minimum fraction always remains in the environment.
  • It is not a feasible process when the concentrations of pollutants are very high.

If you want to read more articles similar to Bioremediation: what it is, types and examples, we recommend that you enter our category of Ecological Technology.

  • Calderon-Díaz, I., Trujillo-Tapia, M. N., & Ramírez-Fuentes, E. (2014). Cyanobacteria that eat oil? Science and Sea, 22(54), 47-52.
  • Cortón, E., & Viale, A. (2006). Solving big environmental problems with the help of little friends: bioremediation techniques. Ecosystems, 15(3).
  • Rojas, E. H. G. (2011). Bioremediation concept and strategies. INGE @ UAN-Trends in Engineering, 1(2).
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