13C/12C Isotope Fractionation during Aerobic and Anaerobic Biodegradation of Naphthalene


Microcosm experiments were conducted to determine the fractionation of stable carbon isotopes during biodegradation of naphthalene. The microcosms were performed under aerobic conditions, anaerobic (amended with sulfate, amended with nitrate and with no amendments) and sterile controls. The liquid phase was analyzed to determine naphthalene concentration and stable carbon isotope signature. Aerobic microcosm showed that naphthalene degraded aerobically within 60 hours. The δ13C increased from -25.5‰ to -25.1‰ (enrichment of 0.4‰ ± 0.08‰) in a single sample in which 95% of the naphthalene was biodegraded. Anaerobic microcosms show that after 288 days, the microcosms with no amendments, amended with nitrate and amended with sulfate had consumed respectively 30%, 50% and 60% of naphthalene on average, compared to control microcosms. Under the denitrifying conditions, the δ13C of naphthalene increased from -25.2‰ to -23.9‰ (enrichment of 1.3‰ ± 0.3‰) after a 95% of naphthalene biodegradation. For the unamended microcosms, a slight enrichment on δ13C napththalene was detected, from -25.2‰ to -24.5‰ (enrichment of 0.7‰ ± 0.3‰) after a biodegradation of approximately 65% of naphthalene (after 288 days). For sulfate reducing microcosms, no significant changes were detected on the δ13C during naphthalene biodegradation.

Share and Cite:

Lesser-Carrillo, L. (2014) 13C/12C Isotope Fractionation during Aerobic and Anaerobic Biodegradation of Naphthalene. International Journal of Geosciences, 5, 206-213. doi: 10.4236/ijg.2014.52022.

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.


[1] C. W. Fetter, “Contaminant Hydrogeology,” Macmillan Publishing Company, New Jersey, 1993.
[2] J. F. Pankow and J. A. Cherry, “Dense Chlorinated Solvents and Other DNAPLs in Groundwater,” Waterloo Press, Oregon, 1996.
[3] J. K. Fawell and S. Hunt, “Environmental Toxicology: Organic Pollutants,” Ellis Horwood Limited Publishers, 1988.
[4] Environment Canada, “Creosote-Impregnated Waste Materials,” Priority Substance List Assessment Report, 1993.
[5] United States Environmental Protection Agency, “Contaminants and Remedial Options at Wood Preserving Sites,” Office of Research and Development, Washington, D.C., EPA/600/R-92/182, 1992.
[6] G. G. Ehrlich, D. F. Goerlitz, E. M. Godsy and M. F. Hult, “Degradation of Phenolic Contaminants in Ground Water by Anaerobic Bacteria: St. Louis Park, Minnesota,” Ground Water, Vol. 20, No. 6, 1982, pp. 703-710.
[7] M. A. Heitkamp and C. E. Cerniglia, “Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbon Degradation by a Mycobacterium sp. in a Microcosm Containing Sediment and Water from a Pristine Ecosystem,” Applied and Environmental Microbiology, Vol. 55, No. 8, 1989, pp. 1968-1973.
[8] S. E. Agarry and C. N. Owabor, “Anaerobic Bioremediation of Marine Sediment Artificially Contaminated with Anthracene and Naphthalene,” Environmental Technology, Vol. 13, No. 12, 2011, pp. 1375-1381.
[9] K. Y. Maillacheruvu and I. A. Pathan, “Biodegradation of Naphthalene, Phenanthrene and Pyrene under Anaerobic Conditions,” Journal of Environmental Science and Health, Part A, Vol. 44, No. 13, 2009, pp. 1315-1326.
[10] R. Kleemann and R. U. Meckenstock, “Anaerobic Naphthalene Degradation by Gram-Positive, Iron-Reducing Bacteria,” FEMS Microbial Ecology, Vol. 78, No. 3, 2011 pp. 488-496.
[11] P. Blum, D. Hunkeler, M. Weede, C. Beyer, P. Grathwohl and B. Morasch, “Quantification of Biodegradation for O-Xylene and Naphthalene Using First Order Decay Models, Michaelis-Menten Kinetics and Stable Carbon Isotopes,” Journal of Contaminant Hydrology, Vol. 105, No. 3-4, 2009, pp. 118-130.
[12] J. R. Mihelcic and R. G. Luthy, “Microbial Degradation of Acenaphthene and Naphthalene under Denitrification Conditions in Soil-Water Systems,” Applied and Environmental Microbiology, Vol. 54, No. 5, 1998, pp. 1188-1198.
[13] B. Al-Bashir, T. Cseh, R. Leduc and R. Samson, “Effect of Soil/Contaminant Interactions on the Biodegradation of Naphthalene in Flooded Soil under Denitrifying Conditions,” Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology, Vol. 34, No. 3, 1990, pp. 414-419.
[14] J. Thierrin, G. B. Davis and C. Barber, “A Ground-Water Tracer Test with Deuterated Compounds for Monitoring in Situ Biodegradation and Retardation of Aromatic Hydrocarbons,” Ground Water, Vol. 33, No. 3, 1995, pp. 469-475.
[15] K. J. Rockne and S. E. Strand, “Biodegradation of Bicyclic and Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons in Anaerobic Enrichments,” Environmental Science and Technology, Vol. 32, No. 24, 1998, pp. 3962-3967.
[16] I. Clark and P. Fritz, “Environmental Isotopes in Hydrogeology,” Lewis Publishers, New York, 1997.
[17] K. D. Van de Velde, M. C. Marley, J. Studer and D. M. Wagner, “Stable Carbon Isotope Analysis to Verify Bioremediation and Bioattenuation,” In: R. E. Hinchee, G. S. Douglas and S. K. Ong, Eds., Monitoring and Verification of Remediation, Battelle Press, Ohio, 1995, pp. 241-257.
[18] D. Hunkeler, R. Aravena and B. J. Butler, “Monitoring Microbial Dechlorination of Tetrachloroethene (PCE) in Groundwater Using Compound-Specific Stable Carbon Isotope Ratios: Microcosm and Field Studies,” Environmental Science and Technology, Vol. 33, No. 16, 1999, pp. 2733-2738. http://dx.doi.org/10.1021/es981282u
[19] Y. Bloom, R. Aravena, D. Hunkeler, E. Edwards and S. K. Frape, “Carbon Isotope Fractionation during Microbial Dechlorination of Trichloroetene, Cis-1,2-dichloroethene, and Vinyl Chloride: Implications for Assesment of Natural Attenuation,” Environmental Science and Technology, Vol. 34, No. 13, 2000, pp. 2768-2772.
[20] B. Sherwood Lollar, G. F. Slater, J. Ahad, B. Sleep, J. Spivack, M. Brenan and P. MacKenzie, “Contrasting Carbon Isotope Fractionation during Biodegradation of Trichloroethylene and Toluene: Implications for Intrinsic Bioremediation,” Organic Geochemistry, Vol. 30, No. 8, 1999, pp. 813-820.
[21] L. G. Stehmeier, M. Francis, T. R. Jack, E. Diegor, L. Winsor and T. A. Abrajano Jr., “Field and in Vitro Evidence for In-Situ Bioremediation Using Compound-Specific 13C/12C Ratio Monitoring,” Organic Geochemistry, Vol. 30, No. 8, 1999, pp. 821-833.
[22] J. M. E. Ahad, B. Sherwood Lollar, E. A. Edwards, G. F. Slater and B. E. Sleep, “Carbon Isotope Fractionation During Anaerobic Biodegradation of Toluene: Implications for Intrinsic Bioremediation,” Environmental Science and Technology, Vol. 34, No. 5, 2000, pp. 892-896.
[23] L. E. Lesser, P. C. Johnson, R. Aravena, G. Spinnler, C. Bruce and J. Salanitro, “An Evaluation of Compound-Specific Isotope Analyses for Assessing the Biodegradation of MTBE at Port Hueneme, CA,” Environmental Science & Technology, Vol. 42, No. 17, 2008, pp. 6637-6643. http://dx.doi.org/10.1021/es703029s
[24] H. H. Richnow, E. Annweiler, W. Michaelis and R. U. Meckenstock, “Microbial in Situ Degradation of Aromatic Hydrocarbons in a Contaminated Aquifer Monitored by Carbon Isotope Fractionation,” Journal of Contaminant Hydrology, Vol. 65, No. 1-2, 2003, pp. 101-120.
[25] H. Craig, “Isotopic Variations in Meteoric Waters,” Science, Vol. 133, No. 3465, 1961, pp. 1702-1703.
[26] L. E. Lesser-Carrillo, “Modeling of a Contaminant Plume in a Tidally Influenced River Using Domenico’s Equation,” International Journal of Geosciences, Vol. 4, No. 3, 2013, pp. 529-536.
[27] M. Chai, C. L. Arthur, J. Pawliszyn, R. P. Belardi and K. F. Pratt, “Determination of Volatile Chlorinated Hydrocarbons in Air and Water with Solid-Phase Microextraction,” Analyst, Vol. 118, No. 12, 1993, pp. 1501-1505.
[28] D. Potter and J. Pawliszyn, “Rapid Determination of Polyaromatic Hydrocarbons and Plychlorinated Biphenyls in Water Using Solid-Phase Microextraction and GC/MS,” Environmental Science and Technology, Vol. 28, No. 2, 1994, pp. 298-305.
[29] D. Hunkeler and R. Aravena, “Determination of Compound-Specific Carbon Isotope Ratios of Chlorinated Solvents and Dechlorination Products in Groundwater,” Environmental Science and Technology, Vol. 34, No. 13, 2000, pp. 2839-2844.
[30] P. M. Berthouex and L. C. Brown, “Statistics for Environmental Engineers,” Lewis Publishers, Florida, 2002.
[31] D. Downing and J. Clark, “Statistis. The Easy Eay,” Barron’s Educational Series, New York, 1997.
[32] V. P. O’Malley, T. A. Abrajano Jr. and J. Hellou, “Determination of the 13C/12C Ratios of Individual PAH from Environmental Samples: Can PAH Sources Be Apportioned?” Organic Geochemistry, Vol. 21, No. 6-7, 1994, pp. 809-822.
[33] C. A. Kelley, R. B. Coffin and J. G. Mueller, “Stable Isotope Analyses—An Innovative Technique to Monitor Biodegradation of Petroleum Hydrocarbons,” Geotechnical News, Vol. 16, No. 2, 1998, pp. 20-24.

Copyright © 2023 by authors and Scientific Research Publishing Inc.

Creative Commons License

This work and the related PDF file are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.