Biostimulation is a valuable tool to assess pesticide biodegradation capacity of groundwater microorganisms

Andrea Aldas-Vargas, Thomas van der Vooren, Huub H.M. Rijnaarts, Nora B. Sutton*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


Groundwater is the main source for drinking water production globally. Groundwater unfortunately can contain micropollutants (MPs) such as pesticides and/or pesticide metabolites. Biological remediation of MPs in groundwater requires an understanding of natural biodegradation capacity and the conditions required to stimulate biodegradation activity. Thus, biostimulation experiments are a valuable tool to assess pesticide biodegradation capacity of field microorganisms. To this end, groundwater samples were collected at a drinking water abstraction aquifer at two locations, five different depths. Biodegradation of the MPs BAM, MCPP and 2,4-D was assessed in microcosms with groundwater samples, either without amendment, or amended with electron acceptor (nitrate or oxygen) and/or carbon substrate (dissolved organic carbon (DOC)). Oxygen + DOC was the most successful amendment resulting in complete biodegradation of 2,4-D in all microcosms after 42 days. DOC was most likely used as a growth substrate that enhanced co-metabolic 2,4-D degradation with oxygen as electron acceptor. Different biodegradation rates were observed per groundwater sample. Overall, microorganisms from the shallow aquifer had faster biodegradation rates than those from the deep aquifer. Higher microbial activity was also observed in terms of CO2 production in the microcosms with shallow groundwater. Our results seem to indicate that shallow groundwater contains more active microorganisms, possibly due to their exposure to higher concentrations of both DOC and MPs. Understanding field biodegradation capacity is a key step towards developing further bioremediation-based technologies. Our results show that biostimulation has real potential as a technology for remediating MPs in aquifers in order to ensure safe drinking production.

Original languageEnglish
Article number130793
Early online date6 May 2021
Publication statusPublished - 2021


  • 2,4-D, Biodegradation
  • Biostimulation
  • Degradation capacity
  • Pesticides


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