This document provides an in‐depth explanation, detailing the processes of aerobic and anaerobic biodegradation. It is intended for general audiences and will provide the reader with the necessary information to understand what is happening during the biodegradation process. For those interested in the biochemical processes of the microbial organisms this document will provide a high level explanation of the aerobic and anaerobic processes.
Biodegradation is the process by which organic substances are broken down into smaller compounds by the enzymes produced by living microbial organisms. The microbial organisms transform the substance through metabolic or enzymatic processes. Biodegradation processes vary greatly, but frequently the final product of the degradation is carbon dioxide or methane. Organic material can be degraded aerobically, with oxygen, or anaerobically, without oxygen. Biodegradable matter is generally organic material such as plant and animal matter and other substances originating from living organisms, or artificial materials that are similar enough to plant and animal matter to be put to use by microorganisms. Some microorganisms have the astonishing, naturally occurring, microbial catabolic diversity to degrade, transform or accumulate a huge range of compounds including hydrocarbons (e.g. oil), polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), polyaromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), pharmaceutical substances, radionuclides and metals.
Aerobic biodegradation is the breakdown of organic contaminants by microorganisms when oxygen is present. More specifically, it refers to occurring or living only in the presence of oxygen; therefore, the chemistry of the system, environment, or organism is characterized by oxidative conditions. Many organic contaminants are rapidly degraded under aerobic conditions by aerobic bacteria called aerobes. ...