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Contaminant transport in the fungal pipeline
Date:7/25/2012

This press release is available in German.

Leipzig. Fungi are found throughout the soil with giant braiding of fine threads. However, these networks have surprising functions. Only a few years ago researchers from the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ) discovered that bacteria travel over the fungal threads through the labyrinth of soil pores, much the same as on a highway. Now, together with British colleagues from the University of Lancaster, the UFZ researchers have come upon another phenomenon. Accordingly, the fungal networks also transports contaminants which are otherwise largely immobile in the ground. These living pipelines can therefore contribute to the restoration of impacted areas, write the researchers in the journal Environmental Science & Technology.

Some bacteria develop a voracious appetite for contaminants. They nourish themselves from toxic chemicals and at the same time convert these to harmless substances. This makes them valuable allies for the elimination of different forms of environmental pollution. Certain soil microbes, for example, are fully capable of restoring impacted ground by natural means. Theoretically at least. In practice, however, the tiny helpers are frequently pushed to their limits. "The problem is that the contaminants often do not even reach them", explains UFZ researcher Lukas Y. Wick, in charge of the new study.

The bacteria frequently have difficulties with substances which are largely insoluble in water. These include, for example, the polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) found in crude oil and coal, released in practically all combustion processes. Along well-travelled roads, in the vicinity of airports or old gas works sites, the ground can also be polluted with these compounds. As many PAHs are considered to be carcinogenic, the help of bacteria for the degradation of t
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Contact: Tilo Arnhold
presse@ufz.de
49-341-235-1635
Helmholtz Association of German Research Centres
Source:Eurekalert  

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