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Keywords:

  • in situ bioremediation;
  • eco-sustainability;
  • biotic–abiotic interactions;
  • bioavailability;
  • assessment of bioremediation efficiency

Abstract

Application of microbial metabolic potential (bioremediation) is accepted as an environmentally benign and economical measure for decontamination of polluted environments. Bioremediation methods are generally categorized into ex situ and in situ bioremediation. Although in situ bioremediation methods have been in use for two to three decades, they have not yet yielded the expected results. Their limited success has been attributed to reduced ecological sustainability under environmental conditions. An important determinant of sustainability of in situ bioremediation is pollutant bioavailability. Microbial chemotaxis is postulated to improve pollutant bioavailability significantly; consequently, application of chemotactic microorganisms can considerably enhance the performance of in situ degradation. The environmental fate of degradative microorganisms and the ecological consequence of intervention constitute other important descriptors for the efficiency and sustainability of bioremediation processes. Integrative use of culture-dependent, culture-independent methods (e.g. amplified rDNA restriction analysis, terminal restriction fragment length polymorphism, denaturing/thermal gradient gel electrophoresis, phospholipid fatty acid, etc.), computational and statistical analyses has enabled successful monitoring of the above aspects. The present review provides a detailed insight into some of the key factors that affect the efficiency of in situ bioremediation along with a comprehensive account of the integrative approaches used for assessing the ecological sustainability of processes. The review also discusses the possibility of developing suicidal genetically engineered microorganisms for optimized and controlled in situ bioremediation.