Effects of plant species identity, diversity and soil fertility on biodegradation of phenanthrene in soil

Oyelami, A.O.; Okere, U.V.; Orwin, K.; Deyn, G.B. de; Jones, K.C.; Semple, K.T.


The work presented in this paper investigated the effects of plant species composition, species diversity and soil fertility on biodegradation of 14C-phenanthrene in soil. The two soils used were of contrasting fertility, taken from long term unfertilised and fertilised grassland, showing differences in total nitrogen content (%N). Plant communities consisted of six different plant species: two grasses, two forbs, and two legume species, and ranged in species richness from 1 to 6. The degradation of 14C-phenanthrene was evaluated by measuring indigenous catabolic activity following the addition of the contaminant to soil using respirometry. Soil fertility was a driving factor in all aspects of 14C-phenanthrene degradation; lag phase, maximum rates and total extents of 14C-phenanthrene mineralisation were higher in improved soils compared to unimproved soils. Plant identity had a significant effect on the lag phase and extents of mineralisation. Soil fertility was the major influence also on abundance of microbial communities.