Bacterial pesticide degraders are generally heterogeneously distributed in soils, leaving soil volumes devoid of degradation potential. This is expected to have an impact on degradation rates because the degradation of pollutant molecules in such zones will be contingent either on degraders colonizing these zones or on pollutant mass transfer to neighboring zones containing degraders. In a model system, we quantified the role exerted by water on mineralization rate in the context of a heterogeneously distributed degradation potential. Alginate beads colonized by Pseudomonas putida KT2440 were inserted at prescribed locations in sand microcosms so that the initial spatial distribution of the mineralization potential was controlled. The mineralization rate was strongly affected by the matric potential (decreasing rate with decreasing matric potential) and by the initial distribution of the degraders (more aggregated distributions being associated with lower rates). The mineralization was diffusion-limited, as confirmed with a mathematical model. In wet conditions, extensive cell dispersal was observed for the flagellated wild type and, albeit to a lesser extent, for a nonflagellated mutant, partially relieving the diffusion limitation. Dry conditions, however, sustained low mineralization rates through the combined effects of low pollutant diffusivity and limited degrader dispersal.
Dechesne, A., Owsianiak, M., Bazire, A., Grundmann, G. L., Binning, P. J., & Smets, B. F. (2010). Biodegradation in a Partially Saturated Sand Matrix: Compounding Effects of Water Content, Bacterial Spatial Distribution, and Motility. Environmental Science & Technology (Washington), 44, 2386-2392. https://doi.org/10.1021/es902760y