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Study Models Oil Aerobic Biodegradation Rates in Tidal Beaches

May 19, 2016
A team of scientists created a numerical model that simulates hydrocarbon biodegradation and transport in tidally influenced beaches to identify key factors affecting biodegradation in these environments.

They found that several limiting factors, including tidal stages, oxygen and nutrient concentrations, and groundwater seepage into the water column significantly affected modeled biodegradation rates in these areas. They published their findings in Water Resources Research: Biodegradation of subsurface oil in a tidally influenced sand beach: Impact of hydraulics and interaction with pore water chemistry.

Modeling microbial oil degradation can help predict long-term oil fate within sediments. Researchers coupled biological kinetic models and flow models to create the numerical model BIOMARUN, which could account for factors such as oxygen and nutrient consumption and water salinity on water flow. They used this model to recreate realistic beach and tide conditions and simulate the biodegradation of low-solubility hydrocarbons in tidally influenced beach environments. This study is the first to relate biodegradation rates with pore water movement and environmental conditions in various areas of the beach.

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