Microbial Communities in Hydrocarbon-Contaminated Desert Soils

  • Thirumahal Muthukrishnan
  • Raeid M. M. AbedEmail author
Reference work entry
Part of the Handbook of Hydrocarbon and Lipid Microbiology book series (HHLM)


Desert ecosystems are vulnerable to heavy crude oil spills during oil exploration and extraction processes. Oil-contaminated deserts exhibit harsh environmental conditions such as extreme temperatures, lack of water, nutrient deficiency, and the persistence of high concentrations of hydrocarbon compounds in soils. Over the past three decades, more attention has been directed to the study of oil-degrading microbial communities in oil-polluted desert ecosystems. In this chapter, current knowledge on hydrocarbon-degrading microbial communities in desert soils and their responses to bioremediation treatments as assessed using culture-based and molecular approaches has been reviewed. Diverse groups of bacteria and fungi have been detected in oil-polluted desert soils despite the severe environmental conditions. Bioremediation approaches including landfarming, phytoremediation, and the use of nutrients and vitamin mixtures have proven to be successful in the cleanup of oil-polluted desert soils. However, bioaugmentation approaches have not succeeded in most cases due to the inability of exogenous microorganisms to compete with indigenous microorganisms in desert soils. Further investigations are required to scale up bioremediation treatments and test their applicability in field conditions. More research should also be focused on the use of genomic and proteomic approaches to study the functional diversity and activities of microorganisms in oil-polluted desert soils.


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.College of Science, Biology DepartmentSultan Qaboos UniversityMuscatSultanate of Oman

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