The aim of this work was to develop bacterial communities to effectively degrade petroleum hydrocarbons (PHs). We investigated the biotic and abiotic contributors to differences in PHs degradation efficacy between two bacterial strains, Klebsiella pneumoniae
(Kp) and Pseudomonas aeruginosa
(Pa), screened out from the activated sludge of a petroleum refinery. We characterized the temporal variations in degradation efficacy for diesel and its five major constituents as a sole carbon source and identified more constituents they degraded. The growth characteristics, surface tension, hydrophobicity and emulsifiability of these two strains were measured. We further estimated the relationships between their degradation efficacy and all the biotic and abiotic factors. Results showed that the Pa strain had higher diesel degradation efficacy (58% on Day 14) and utilized more diesel constituents (86%) compared to Kp. Additionally, the growth of the Pa strain in diesel medium was faster than that of the Kp strain. The Pa strain had a lower surface tension and higher hydrophobicity and emulsifiability than Kp, while the surfactant produced by Pa was identified as rhamnolipids. Degradation of PHs was positively related to bacterial growth, hydrophobicity and emulsification but negatively related to surface tension. Overall, differences in degrading capacity for diesel constituents, relative growth rate, and biosurfactant production contributed to the variation in the PHs degradation efficacy of these two bacterial strains.
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