Microbial Communities in Hydrocarbon-Polluted Harbors and Marinas

  • Balbina NogalesEmail author
  • Rafael Bosch
Reference work entry
Part of the Handbook of Hydrocarbon and Lipid Microbiology book series (HHLM)


Anthropogenically created habitats have characteristic features that determine the composition and function of microbial communities. Harbors are eutrophicated, variable, and complex environments where pollution is chronic and multifactorial (hydrocarbons, heavy metals, biocides, etc.). These environments sustain highly diverse communities, different in composition from those in surrounding areas. Known hydrocarbon degrading bacteria are in low proportions in these communities. The presence of pollutants (hydrocarbons, heavy metals, or combination of both) is an important factor in shaping the composition of these communities. But we cannot explain the variability of harbor communities without taking into account multiple and various environmental parameters that might be different for each harbor and even more important than the presence of hydrocarbons. Microbial communities in harbor waters and sediments have capabilities for hydrocarbon degradation and respond rapidly to accidental oil spills in bioremediation trials. We are starting to elucidate the complexity of catabolic networks in harbor communities in terms of microbial taxa and degradation pathways involved, but the data are still scarce. The latest studies show clearly that we should move from the simplistic view that hydrocarbon degradation in harbors is done by well-characterized hydrocarbon degraders. The emerging picture is a network of diverse microorganisms and catabolic activities able to cope with the multiple stress factors acting in harbor environments.


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© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Departamento de BiologíaUniversidad de las Illes BalearsPalmaSpain
  2. 2.Instituto Mediterráneo de Estudios Avanzados (IMEDEA, UIB-CSIC)EsporlesSpain

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