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24, chemin de Borde Rouge –Auzeville – CS52627
31326 Castanet Tolosan CEDEX - France

Dernière mise à jour : Mai 2018

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Chloé MERLIN (2015)

Search for biological signature of the degradation of chlordecone in soil of the French West Indies,
Director : Fabrice Martin,
Co-director: Marion Devers Lamrani,
Doctoral School: Environment & health

Search for biological signature of the degradation of chlordecone in soil of the French West Indies

The use of chlordecone (CLD) to eradicate the weevil populations in the banana plantations in the French West Indies (Guadeloupe and Martinique) between 1972 and 1993 led to the contamination of the soil and the environment. This very hydrophobic organochlorine insecticide persists in the soil where it slowly transfers not only to the water resources but also to terrestrial and aquatic biota (plants, animals, fishes, shellfishes). Deemed “non-degradable”, CLD is resistant to photolysis, hydrolysis and biodegradation. To date, there is no method to remediate the 20,000 hectares of polluted soil with this insecticide. Given the extent of CLD pollution, biological decontamination processes appear appropriate to the Caribbean context. The objectives of my thesis were to explore the possibilities of microbial transformation of CLD and to assess the ecotoxicological impact of CLD on the soil microbial community. My work is based on the hypothesis that microbial populations chronically exposed to CLD would be adapted to its degradation to detoxify their environment or possibly for use as an energy source for growth.

To do so, I developed an analysis method in soils and microbial cultures based on the use of stable isotope to trace CLD. I conducted enrichment experiments with CLD polluted soils from Guadeloupe yielding in the isolation of one hundred fungal strains and nearly two hundred bacterial strains. No degrading bacterial strains have been identified although few of them formed dissolution halo of CLD on solid media. Among the fungal isolates, only F. oxysporum sp. MIAE01197 grew on a mineral medium containing CLD as sole carbon source and dissipated 40% of the CLD. This isolate was twice more tolerant than the reference isolate which had never been exposed to CLD. This isolate mineralizes 14C-CLD very lowly, formed very few 14C-metabolites, but the 14C-CLD was adsorbed on the fungal cell walls, suggesting that the adsorption was the main mechanism involved in the dissipation of the CLD. Analysis of three other isolates belonging to the genus Aspergillus confirmed that exposure to CLD was one of the parameters improving the tolerance of fungal strains to CLD and fungal biomass was capable of adsorbing the CLD in proportions close to those obtained with activated carbon used to treat drinking water in the French West Indies.

The assessment of the CLD ecotoxicological impact on the microbial community and functions it supports was carried out on two soils never exposed to CLD showing contrasting physicochemical properties. The analysis of the overall structure (evaluated by RISA), the abundance and the activity of the microbial community of the silty-clay soil were not affected by the CLD. However, the taxonomic composition (evaluated by group specific qPCR) and respiratory activity of the microbial community were affected by the CLD in the sandy soil. These results showed that the toxicity of CLD for microbial community depends on the physicochemical properties of the soil which may determine its bioavailability. Further studies are needed to evaluate the possible toxicity of the CLD on Caribbean soil ecosystemic functions.