Biodegradation of explosives mixture in soil under different water-content conditions Academic Article uri icon


  • Soil redox potential plays a key role in the rates and pathways of explosives degradation, and is highly influenced by water content and microbial activity. Soil redox potential can vary significantly both temporally and spatially in micro-sites. In this study, when soil water content increased, the redox potential decreased, and there was significant enhancement in the biodegradation of a mixture of three explosives. Whereas TNT degradation occurred under both aerobic and anaerobic conditions, RDX and HMX degradation occurred only when water content conditions resulted in a prolonged period of negative redox potential. Moreover, under unsaturated conditions, which are more representative of real environmental conditions, the low redox potential, even when measured for temporary periods, was sufficient to facilitate anaerobic degradation. Our results clearly indicate a negative influence of TNT on the biodegradation of RDX and HMX, but this effect was less pronounced than that found in previous slurry batch experiments: this can be explained by a masking effect of the soil in the canisters. Fully or partially saturated soils can promote the existence of micro-niches that differ considerably in their explosives concentration, microbial community and redox conditions.

publication date

  • January 1, 2012