Degradation of Crude Oil and PAHs in Iron–Manganese Concretions and Sediment from the Northern Baltic Sea

The ability of different sea bottom types to recover from oil contamination under oxic and anoxic conditions is poorly known in the brackish Baltic Sea. We carried out microcosm experiments to examine the capacity of iron–manganese concretions and sediment to remove petroleum compounds at 10°C. The biological degradation potential of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) was indicated by the 1000-fold increase in the copy numbers of PAH-degradation genes resulting in 2.2 × 106 gene copies g−1 DW. In the experiments 35−81% of the crude oil and 96% of PAHs disappeared through abiotic and biotic pathways, and there was little difference between the concretions and sediment. Bacterial community analysis revealed that the bacterial sequences obtained from the oil-treated concretions were affiliated to groups typical for concretions and metal-rich environments, whereas oil-treated sediment sequences were similar to those originating from sediments and oil-contaminated environments. The high frequency of concretion clones affiliated with specific taxonomic groups of α-, β-, γ-, and δ-proteobacteria may indicate the existence of new clades of bacteria within the Rhizobiales and Rhodospirillales of the α-proteobacteria, Burkholderiales—incertae sedis of the β-proteobacteria, Chromatiales of the γ-proteobacteria and the Syntrophobacteriales of the δ-proteobacteria. Our study suggests that concretions and bottom sediment maintain rich, distinct bacterial communities under oil exposure that have the potential to remove petroleum compounds in oxic and anoxic conditions.