Microbial Degradation of Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons in Soils Affected by the Organic Matrix of Compost

Appl Microbiol Biotechnol. 1996 Jan;44(5):668-75. doi: 10.1007/BF00172501.


This paper describes the degradation of naphthalene, phenanthrene, anthracene, fluoranthene, and pyrene in soil and soil/compost mixtures. Compost addition facilitated the degradation of 500 mg naphthalene/kg soil and 100 mg/kg each of other polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH) within 25 days in soil systems with water contents below the water-holding capacity. By means of a humic acid extraction, it was demonstrated that the decrease of PAH concentrations after compost addition was not caused by a sorption to organic matter preventing PAH analysis. The enhanced PAH degradation was examined in a series of batch experiments with contaminated soil to evaluate whether the effect of compost addition is caused by the microorganisms of the compost itself, by the properties of the organic matrix of the compost material, or by water-soluble fertilising substances. The experiments revealed that the release of fertilising substances from the compost and the shift of soil pH brought about by the compost did not cause the stimulatory effect. The microorganisms inherent to the compost were also not necessary for the enhanced degradation. Sterilised compost was recolonised by soil microorganisms after a lagphase yielding a degradation activity similar to that of the non-sterilised compost. The presence of the solid organic matrix of the compost seemed to be essential for the enhanced degradation. The soil/compost microflora, which was separated from the organic matrix in liquid cultures, exhibited a much lower degrading activity than in the presence of the solid organic material.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Bacteria / metabolism*
  • Biodegradation, Environmental
  • Polycyclic Compounds / metabolism*
  • Soil Pollutants / metabolism*


  • Polycyclic Compounds
  • Soil Pollutants