Importance of functional diversity in assessing the recovery of the microbial community after the Hebei Spirit oil spill in Korea

Hanbyul Lee, Dong Wan Lee, Sun Lul Kwon, Young Mok Heo, Seokyoon Jang, Bong Oh Kwon, Jong Seong Khim, Gyu Hyeok Kim, Jae Jin Kim

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

36 Citations (Scopus)


Over 10 years after the Hebei Spirit oil spill (HSOS), the concentrations of pollutants, such as TPH and PAHs, in spilled crude oil have recovered to background levels, but in some areas, the environment has not fully recovered. In particular, PAHs were more resistant to degradation, and their persistence could have deleterious impacts on the sediment ecosystem. This study aimed to evaluate the microbial recovery of coastal sediments from the HSOS by analyzing the structure and diversity of the microbial community and its functional contribution to PAHs degradation. High-throughput sequencing on the MiSeq platform was conducted using tidal flat sediments collected in 2014 and 2016 from the area contaminated by the HSOS. The microbial recovery was evaluated by various diversity factors, including microbial composition and structure and functional diversity based on PICRUSt analysis. The abundance of microbial taxa associated with TPH degradation was higher in 2014 than that in 2016, but the taxa associated with PAHs degradation were similar between years. These results are consistent with the dynamics of microbes associated with the fate of pollutants, and they also showed similar tendency in functional profiles. That is, even if the pollutants are completely degraded, the microbial community has not yet completely recovered from the HSOS. The evaluation of microbial ecosystems in contaminated environments should consider both the fate of pollutants and the dynamics of microbial species that make functional contributions to the degradation of pollutants.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)89-94
Number of pages6
JournalEnvironment international
Publication statusPublished - 2019 Jul

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research was funded by the Ministry of Science and ICT (MSIT) [ NRF-2017R1A2B4002071 and NRF-2018R1A6A3A01011109 ], the Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries of Korea (MOF) [ 20170318 and 20170325 ], and a Korea University Grant.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019 The Authors


  • Bacterial community
  • Functional diversity
  • Oil spill
  • PAHs degradation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Environmental Science


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