Manufacturing and resource industries are the key drivers for economic growth with a huge environmental cost (e.g. discharge of industrial effluents and post-mining substrates). Pollutants from waste streams, either organic or inorganic (e.g. heavy metals), are prone to interact with their physical environment that not only affects the ecosystem health but also the livelihood of local communities. Unlike organic pollutants, heavy metals or trace metals (e.g. chromium, mercury) are non-biodegradable, bioaccumulate through food-web interactions and are likely to have a long-term impact on ecosystem health. Microorganisms provide varied ecosystem services including climate regulation, purification of groundwater, rehabilitation of contaminated sites by detoxifying pollutants. Recent studies have highlighted the potential of methanotrophs, a group of bacteria that can use methane as a sole carbon and energy source, to transform toxic metal (loids) such as chromium, mercury and selenium. In this review, we synthesise recent advances in the role of essential metals (e.g. copper) for methanotroph activity, uptake mechanisms alongside their potential to transform toxic heavy metal (loids). Case studies are presented on chromium, selenium and mercury pollution from the tanneries, coal burning and artisanal gold mining, respectively, which are particular problems in the developing economy that we propose may be suitable for remediation by methanotrophs.
- Metal transformation and speciation