Response of the fungal community to chronic petrogenic contamination in surface and subsurface soils

Alexandra Schwarz, Eric M. Adetutu, Albert L. Juhasz, Arturo Aburto-Medina, Andrew S. Ball, Esmaeil Shahsavari

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)


The contamination of soil with petrogenic hydrocarbons represents a significant human health concern as a result of the carcinogenic and mutagenic properties of a number of compounds commonly found in petroleum products such as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). Although it is known that soil fungal communities play an important role in the degradation of highly branched petroleum hydrocarbons and high molecular weight PAHs, little information is available regarding the impact of petrogenic contamination on the structure and diversity of the fungal community and the impact of soil type on the fungal community response. Here, the aim of this study was to evaluate the impact of petrogenic contamination on fungal communities in two soil types. In sandy soils, the most contaminated test pit had the highest fungal diversity. Fungal profiles were dominated by species from the class Eurotiomycetes and included the well-known hydrocarbon-degrading species of Aspergillus and Eurotiales. The dominance of these species did not change with contamination concentration, suggesting a level of adaptability to multiple carbon sources. There appeared to be no correlation between fungal species diversity and contaminant concentration in the clayey soil. Similar dominant fungal species were identified in the clay and sandy soils, all of which were part of the phylum Ascomycota. The clayey soils had a higher species diversity and range-weighted richness compared to sandy soils, which may be a result of the pore connectivity theory i.e. as a result of low water connectivity in soils the formation of diverse communities is promoted through creation of microhabitats.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)206-215
Number of pages10
Publication statusPublished or Issued - 15 Mar 2019
Externally publishedYes


  • Fungal communities
  • Hydrocarbon degraders
  • ITS region
  • Total petroleum hydrocarbons

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Soil Science

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