A polyphasic taxonomic study, including amplified fragment length polymorphism (AFLP) fingerprinting, DNA-DNA hybridizations, DNA base-ratio determinations, phylogenetic analysis, whole-cell fatty acid analyses and an extensive biochemical characterization, was performed on 19 Burkholderia cepacia-like isolates from the environment and cystic fibrosis (CF) patients. Several of the environmental isolates have attracted considerable interest due to their biocontrol properties. The polyphasic taxonomic data showed that the strains represent a new member of the B. cepacia complex, for which the name Burkholderia ambifaria sp. nov. is proposed. The type strain is strain LMG 19182T. B. ambifaria can be differentiated from the other members of the B. cepacia complex by means of AFLP fingerprinting, whole-cell fatty acid analysis, biochemical tests (including ornithine and lysine decarboxylase activity, acidification of sucrose and beta-haemolysis) and a newly developed recA gene-based PCR assay. 16S rDNA-based RFLP analysis and PCR tests allowed differentiation of B. ambifaria from Burkholderia multivorans, Burkholderia vietnamiensis and B. cepacia genomovar VI, but not from B. cepacia genomovars I and III and Burkholderia stabilis. The finding that this new taxon includes both strains isolated from CF patients and potentially useful biocontrol strains supports the general consensus that the large-scale use of biocontrol strains belonging to the B. cepacia complex would be ill-advised until more is known about their potential pathogenic mechanisms.