Unravelling Diatoms’ Potential for the Bioremediation of Oil Hydrocarbons in Marine Environments

Jose Paniagua-Michel, Ibrahim M Banat

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The search for practical solutions to alleviate the destructive impact of petroleum hydrocarbons in marine environments is contributing to the implementation of prospecting strategies
for indigenous microorganisms with biodegradative and bioremediation potential. The levels of
petroleum contamination entering the marine environment each year have been estimated at around
1.3 million tonnes, a figure that is expected to increase by 1.9% annually over the next decade. The
recent interest in decarbonizing our energy system and accelerating the clean energy transition
has created a demand for greener technologies and strategies to find innovative, sustainable, and
cost-effective treatments for the marine environment. Diatoms (Bacillariophyta) are one of the most
diverse and successful taxa in coastal–marine environments and are a relatively untapped pool of
biodiversity for biotechnological applications. Recent reports have revealed the significant presence
of diatoms associated with oil spills and petroleum hydrocarbon degradation. Most diatoms can
secrete substantial amounts of exopolysaccharides (EPSs) into their environment, which can act as
biosurfactants that, in addition to oxygen and other enzymes produced by diatoms, create suitable
conditions to enhance hydrocarbon solubility and degradation into less toxic compounds in seawater. Recent reports on the biodegradation of aliphatic and aromatic hydrocarbons by diatoms are
indicative of the potential of these taxa to achieve success in the bioremediation of hydrocarbons in
marine environments. This review highlights the main attributes and roles that diatoms could play in
integrated strategies for biodegradation and bioremediation of petroleum hydrocarbon pollutants
and as such represent a green, eco-friendly, and sustainable contribution to mitigate damage to
biodiversity and value chains of marine ecosystems.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)93-115
Number of pages23
JournalClean Technologies
Issue number1
Early online date17 Jan 2024
Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - 17 Jan 2024

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© 2024 by the authors.


  • diatoms
  • hydrocarbons
  • bioremediation
  • biodegradation
  • marine
  • oil pollution
  • oil spill


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