by Maria MARKAROVA, Cand. Sc. (BioL), Senior Researcher of the Institute of Biology of the Komi Research Center, Ural Department of the Russian Academy of Sciences
How to cope with the consequences of oil spills?
This is a stiff task, particularly, in the Far North. That is why for over ten years the research center of the RAS Ural Department has been studying the damaged landscapes trying to assess the efficiency of various technologies of land recultivation and the self-cleaning capacity of biocenoses. This is how it became possible to collect a workable set of hydrocarbon oxidizing microorganisms and on this basis obtain a biopreparation ("Universal") commercially tested in the Republic of Komi, in the Perm and Tyumen regions.
For the Republic of Komi, as well as for other regions of Russia, where "black gold" is extracted, oil spills present a serious problem. Suffice it to say that in 1994 when, because of a trunk pipeline break in the Usinsk district, about 200 thousand tons of oil came to be spilled over. This event was even entered in the Guinness Book of Records. Over 70 hectares (175 acres) of land was polluted and damaged mechanically; most of the damaged territory lay in the area of peat bogs and swamps. Pollutant concentration reached 600 to 850 mg/g, and the depth of soil stratum impregnation ranged 30 to 150 cm.
It should be stressed that local soils are characterized by a high sensitivity to any kind of technogenic effects. Decomposition of organic matter takes place slowly because of low pH values (3.5 to 4.5 on the average), low efficiency of biologically active horizons and also due to the short period of above-zero temperatures (2 to 2.5 months) and extensive bogging. In addition, peat bogs display a very high sorption capacity, which compounds the problem of high-viscosity oil mining in the north of the Komi Republic. To solve this problem solely by mechanical techniques is hardly possible: we just get rid of surfac ... Read more