Human pollutants can cause drastic decreases in microbial diversity, but the bacteria that survive the contamination may yield clues for how to remove such toxins from the environment, according to a study published in The International Society for Microbial Ecology Journal. This study suggests "that bacteria can survive in highly toxic environments," said linkurl:Mihai Pop,; a bioinformaticist at University of Maryland, who was not involved in the research.
Aircraft Reactor Experiment Building
Oak Ridge National Laboratory

Image: Wikimedia commons,
"[By] knowing which bacteria can live in a contaminated environment, we can start figuring out how to modify them to perform useful bioremediation options," he added, referring to the use of microbes to remove environmental toxins following chemical spills and other pollutants. From the 1950s to 1980s, numerous toxins -- including nitrate, heavy metals, and radionuclides such as uranium and technetium -- were dumped into ponds near Oak Ridge,...
C. Hemme et al., "Metagenomic insights into evolution of a heavy metal-contaminated groundwater microbial community," The ISME Journal, published online February 25, 2010, doi:10.1038/ismej.2009.154.

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