Analysis of microbial communities associated with willows and their contribution to the accumulation and degradation of soil contaminants.
This project, funded by Genome Canadaand Génome Québec, is part of the GenoRem project and is the result of the participation of many researchers, doctoral students and postdoctoral interns.
The soil is an ecological nest that is home to an inestimable number of all kinds of microorganisms that interact with each other and provide fundamental biological functions on a planetary scale. Industrial society has had a deep and long-lasting effect on soil compositions, thereby changing the biological processes that take place in the soil. The mining and petroleum industries, as well as intensive farming practices, are sources of pollution that pose a very long-term threat to ecological balance. Despite major political decisions to protect the environment on a local or global scale, the technical and scientific means to clean up contaminated zones are still limited.
However, polluted soil is not “dead” soil. It is home to a large number of very specialized microorganisms which can, for example, degrade petroleum derivatives, and in general, assimilate and transform pollutants. Moreover, these microorganisms do not all function independently, and are capable of creating exchange relationships with plants (known as symbiosis), allowing the microorganisms to colonize very hostile environments. Degrading pollutants, in the case of bacteria, or concentrating them, in the case of mycorrhizal fungi and plants, offers interesting and effective perspectives for soil decontamination. Our work consists of studying the way these communities of microorganisms work and the relationships they create with plants. We use molecular biology techniques, including mass sequencing of all genetic information contained in soil particles (metagenomics and metatranscriptomics). By analyzing this information, we will be able to know which organisms live in the polluted soil and what they do naturally to decontaminate it. This information can then be used to optimize soil decontamination protocols without using mechanical or chemical means – just carefully selected plants and microorganisms.