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2017 | Book

Principles and Applications of Environmental Biotechnology for a Sustainable Future


About this book

This textbook on Environmental Biotechnology not only presents an unbiased overview of the practical biological approaches currently employed to address environmental problems, but also equips readers with a working knowledge of the science that underpins them. Starting with the fundamentals of biotechnology, it subsequently provides detailed discussions of global environmental problems including microbes and their interaction with the environment, xenobiotics and their remediation, solid waste management, waste water treatment, bioreactors, biosensors, biomining and biopesticides.

This book also covers renewable and non-renewable bioenergy resources, biodiversity and its conservation, and approaches to monitoring biotechnological industries, genetically modified microorganism and foods so as to increase awareness.

All chapters are written in a highly accessible style, and each also includes a short bibliography for further research. In summary this textbook offers a valuable asset, allowing students, young researchers and professionals in the biotechnology industry to grasp the basics of environmental biotechnology.

Table of Contents

1. Introduction to Environmental Biotechnology
Environment is a complex mixture of many variables including all the physical and biological surroundings and their interactions. Each organism is affected by environmental problems like depletion of ozone layer, global warming, overpopulation, depletion of natural resources, loss of biodiversity, etc. Current environmental problems make us vulnerable to disasters and tragedies, now and in the future. The endangered status of environmental health could be changed only through the understanding of interactions among various living organisms and physical, and chemical phenomena. Environmental biotechnology is concerned with the application of biotechnology as an emerging technology in the context of agriculture, resource conservation, environmental protection, monitoring of contaminated environment, and waste management. It can be considered as a driving force for integrated environmental protection leading to sustainable development. Sustainable development defines progress in human well-being that can be extended or prolonged over many generations rather than just a few years. It requires a framework for integrating environmental policies and development strategies in a global context. Environmental biotechnology may revamp the possibilities for the prevention of pollution, treatments of solid waste and wastewater, manufacturing with less pollution or less raw materials, ensuring the health of the environment through biomonitoring, and genetic engineering. Since environmental biotechnology has a large potential to contribute to the prevention, detection, and remediation of environmental pollution and degradation of waste, it is a sustainable way to develop clean processes and products, less harmful, with reduced environmental impact than their forerunners. It’s role is important with reference to clean technology options in the industrial, agroforestry, food, raw material, and mineral sectors.
Ram Lakhan Singh
2. Global Environmental Problems
Everything that surrounds or affects an organism during its lifetime is collectively referred to as its environment. It comprises both living (biotic) and nonliving (abiotic) components. Human civilisation and globalisation are the dominant culprits of constant change in the global environment in present scenario. Various processes that can be said to contribute to the global environmental problems include pollution, global warming, ozone depletion, acid rain, depletion of natural resources, overpopulation, waste disposal, deforestation and loss of biodiversity. Almost all these processes are the result of the use of natural resources in unsustainable manner. These processes have highly negative impact on our environment. One of the major impacts is the release of large quantities of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases in atmosphere as the result of burning of fossil fuels by industries and automobiles. The result is the worldwide pollution problem, temperature fluctuation of our planet, ozone hole and possible change in Earth’s climate. Loss of forests, damage to water bodies (lakes and ponds) and their ecosystems by acid rain, over-exploitation of natural resources, massive extinction of species due to habitat destruction and other well-known causes worldwide are connected with environmental issues globally. The rapidly growing demographic structure and globalisation are leading to a number of environmental issues because of the uncontrolled urbanisation, industrialisation, deforestation and loss of useful agriculture land. The global environmental health impact remains profoundly perturbing. Unsafe water, poor sanitation and hygiene conditions, air pollution and global climate change accounts for nearly a tenth of deaths and disease burden worldwide. Due to above-mentioned environmental issues, our planet is facing severe environmental crisis. Current environmental problems lead to disasters and tragedies now, will also be the reason of casualties in future and require urgent attention from the responsible authorities/nations to frame appropriate laws to overcome these issues and also by making people aware to use natural resources in sustainable manner.
Ram Lakhan Singh, Pradeep Kumar Singh
3. Microbes and Environment
Microbes are omnipresent in the biosphere, and their presence invariably affects the environment in which they grow. The effects of microbes on their environment can be beneficial or harmful or inapparent with regard to human measure or observation. The most significant effect of the microbes on earth is their ability to recycle the primary elements that make up all living systems, especially carbon, oxygen, and nitrogen (N). Primary production involves photosynthetic organisms which take up CO2 from the atmosphere and convert it to organic (cellular) material. The process is also called CO2 fixation, and it accounts for a very large portion of organic carbon available for synthesis of cell material. Decomposition or biodegradation results in the breakdown of complex organic materials to other forms of carbon that can be used by other organisms. There is no naturally occurring organic compound that cannot be degraded by some microbe, although some synthetic compounds such as Teflon, plastics, insecticides, and pesticides are broken down very slowly or not at all. Through the microbial metabolic processes of fermentation and respiration, organic molecules are eventually broken down to CO2 which is returned to the atmosphere for continuous process of primary production. Biological nitrogen fixation is a process found only in some bacteria which remove N2 from the atmosphere and converts it to ammonia (NH3), for use by the plants and animals. Nitrogen fixation also results in replenishment of soil nitrogen removed by agricultural processes. Thus along with all these benefits, microbes greatly contribute in maintaining sustainability of environment. This chapter mainly focuses on beneficial and harmful impacts of microbes on environment and their role to maintain quality, health, and sustainability of environment.
Ankit Gupta, Rasna Gupta, Ram Lakhan Singh
4. Bioremediation of Plant Refuges and Xenobiotics
Industrialization, urbanization, and agricultural practices have created noxiousity of xenobiotics compounds in the atmosphere, seriously affecting the health of all living systems. The hazards created by such compounds are alarming and must be controlled/treated through bioremediation, a safe, economical, and rapid method for the treatment of almost all types of xenobiotic compounds. Microbial systems mainly bacteria, fungi, yeast, actinomycetes, and algae have diversified enzyme system for metabolizing such compounds into nontoxic forms and mineralizing up to the level of plant nutrients. The knowledge of such xenobiotics compounds, their existence and persistence in natural ecosystem, risk created by such compounds, biomagnifications, and biodegradation/bioremediation are essential for its effective control from different ecosystems. A very comprehensive classification of compounds and their degrading/metabolizing microbial enzymes along with the list of microorganisms has been discussed which is very essential for the environmental scientists, microbiologist, biochemist as well as agricultural scientist for their awareness and adopting remedial measures. Several new xenobiotic compounds are being synthesized in the natural ecosystem through polymerization and other organic reactions which must be identified and treated with specific suitable microbial consortia of different tolerance capabilities to temperature, pH, O2, etc. The current scenario of bioremediation of xenobiotics compounds is greatly facilitated by the consortia of competent strain of various groups of microorganisms having the ability to coexist for longer periods without affecting their growth and metabolism, resulting in better remediation from natural ecosystem. The industrial effluents and solid waste treatment as well as field application of such microorganisms are showing effective results; therefore, large-scale cultivation and long-term preservation of these microorganisms either alone or in consortium are another area of research for safe and effective applications.
Soni Tiwari, Ashutosh Tripathi, Rajeeva Gaur
5. Management and Remediation of Problem Soils, Solid Waste and Soil Pollution
Soils with serious constraints to cultivation and that need special management techniques and practices are called as problem soils. These constraints may be physical such as dryness, wetness, steepness and extreme textures and chemical such as acidity, salinity, sodicity and lack of fertility. Reversing the degradation of soil, water and biological resources and enhancing crop production through appropriate management and remediation are essential components in achieving food and livelihood security.
Due to rapid increase in the production and consumption processes, societies generate as well as reject solid materials regularly from various sectors—agricultural, commercial, domestic, industrial and institutional. Solid wastes are the wastes generated from anthropogenic activities that are generally solid and are refuge as useless or unwanted. Generation of solid wastes exerts pressure on natural resources and seriously undermines sustainable development. One of the best ways to solve the situation is to manage solid waste efficiently.
Presence of xenobiotic (man-made) compounds or other alterations in the natural soil environment culminates into soil pollution. The principal sources of soil pollution include industrial activity, agricultural chemicals or improper disposal of waste. The most common chemicals involved are petroleum hydrocarbons, polynuclear aromatic hydrocarbons (such as naphthalene and benzo(a)pyrene), solvents, pesticides, lead and other heavy metals. Soil pollution causes health and ecological risks. In this chapter, we shall discuss different soil contaminants, including solid wastes and problem soils, their health and ecological risks and overall management practices to control soil pollution.
Shiv Shankar, Shikha
6. Wastewater Treatment
Water is a universal solvent and a vital constituent of living organisms. It recirculates in the environment through the hydrologic cycle which can be hampered due to human activities in terms of pollution. Polluted water, known as wastewater or effluent, should not be drained without treatment, as it constitutes a serious threat to living beings. Parameters like biochemical oxygen demand (BOD), chemical oxygen demand (COD), total dissolved solids (TDS), etc. are used to determine water quality. Therefore, wastewater treatment methods are targeted to get these parameters at optimum level. Such processes are either physico-chemical or biotechnological in nature and may be categorised as preliminary, primary, secondary and tertiary treatments. All of these must be followed by disinfection to obtain potable water. Major objectives of preliminary and primary treatment include removal of coarse and fine particle by screening, filtration, sedimentation, equalisation and flotation. Secondary treatment consists of biological treatment, i.e. aerobic, anaerobic and specialised reactors. Tertiary treatment entails chemical processes to purify wastewater. In the future, as the world’s population continues to grow, such research priorities will become increasingly paramount. At present, a change in research priorities can be observed, and new technologies that meet the requirements of sustainable development and multidisciplinary approach are being applied. Therefore, modified methods must be developed to be used in systemic combination to fulfil the demand of potable and reusable water.
Monika Asthana, Avnish Kumar, B. S. Sharma
7. Bioreactors
Bioprocess technology/engineering deals with the development and applications of competent strains of microorganisms for their optimum metabolite production in a specialized bioreactor, depending on the growth kinetics and nature of metabolite production at their suitable physicochemical and nutritional levels. However, three important components are taken under consideration involving several microbiological and biochemical engineering skills, also known as biomolecular engineering along with architecture and design of bioreactor systems, because the design and architecture of a bioreactor is solely based on the nature of the microorganisms, growth, and metabolite production along with the elimination of toxic substances during fermentation. In the current scenario, the development of bioreactor technology can change any process parameters economically with greater productivity and quality of microbial products, therefore, the design and architecture of a bioreactor is important, and can make a new revolution in bioprocess engineering. The mutational and recombinant DNA technology has developed several beneficial microorganisms, and their large-scale economical production requires fermentation technology mainly in the development of suitable bioreactor systems and process parameters. Much work has been done by microbiologists and biochemists for the production of various microbial metabolites including enzymes, hormones, polysaccharides, organic acids, vitamins, and so on at laboratory scale through flask culture experiments, whereas commercial-scale production requires several correction factors as well as a specialized bioreactor for continuous production of microbial metabolites with minimum energy consumption. The importance of bioreactor systems and their evaluation for the architecture requires optimization of fermentation parameters by a benchtop fermentor, and then a bioreactor should be fabricated on the guidelines of the microbiologist adopting the corrective measures of several growth parameters for the optimum production of microbial metabolites.
Rajeeva Gaur, Anurag Singh, Ashutosh Tripathi, Ranjan Singh
8. Biopesticides
Biopesticides, an alternative to chemical pesticides, are typically derived from living organisms, microorganisms, and other natural sources. Microorganisms such as bacteria, fungi, viruses, or protozoans as an active ingredient can control varieties of pests and exhibit specificity for their target pests. Certain weeds can be controlled by some fungi, whereas other fungi can target and kill specific insects. None of microbial, biochemical pesticides and plant-incorporated protectants can be obtained from various microorganisms which confer protection against pest damage. Some of the additional benefits of biopesticides include complex and novel modes of action against their target pests and efficient resistance management to extend the product life of conventional pesticides. Biopesticides pose less risk to people and the environment as compared to synthetic pesticides and hence gain global attention as a new tool to kill insects and plant pathogens and suppress growth of weeds. In this chapter, the global scenario of biopesticides is discussed with special reference to its current demand, use, constraints, and remedies.
Sudhir Mehrotra, Shiv Kumar, Mohd Zahid, Minal Garg
9. Renewable and Nonrenewable Energy Resources: Bioenergy and Biofuels
Energy is at the heart of most critical economic, environmental, and development issues facing the world today. Challenges posed on global community and national governments due to energy security, climate change, health impacts, and poverty are making it exigent to make energy sector green. Shifting toward green energy is supposed to play a critical role in addressing some of the most prominent contemporary challenges the world is facing at present.
Renewable energy is derived from natural processes that are replenished constantly. Renewable energy replaces conventional fuels in four distinct areas: electricity generation, air and water heating/cooling, motor fuels, and rural (off-grid) energy services. Present chapter shall deal with different renewable energy resources and technologies, their ecological implications, commercialization, challenges, and opportunities.
Nonrenewable energy resources (also called a finite resource) are resource that does not renew themselves at a sufficient rate for sustainable economic extraction in meaningful human time frames. At present, the main energy source used by humans is nonrenewable fossil fuels. The continual use of fossil fuels at the current rate is believed to increase global warming and cause more severe climate change. This segment will highlight different nonrenewable energy resources, present status, their ecological implications, and future prospectus.
Bioenergy a form of renewable energy is obtained from biomass. Biomass contains solar energy in the form of chemical energy. As a fuel it may include wood, wood waste, straw, manure, sugarcane, and many other by-products from wide spectrum of agricultural practices. This section will describe different forms of bioenergy, routes of conversion of biomass into bioenergy, present status, and future prospectus.
Shiv Shankar, Shikha
10. Biodiversity and Its Conservation
Environmentalists might define biodiversity as the total sum of all plant and animal life on the Earth and air, water, and land that support animal and plant life. It is an attribute of an area and specifically refers to the variety within and among living organisms, assemblages of living organisms, biotic communities, and biotic processes, whether naturally occurring or modified by humans. The richness of biodiversity provides humans a food security, health care, and industrial commodities that have support to high standard of living in the modern world. This diversity of organisms makes a sustainable support system which is utilized by every society/nation for its growth, development, and betterment. Those that overused or misused it are decayed. Animal, plant, and marine biodiversity consists of the natural capital that keeps our ecosystems functional and economically productive. The real problem the world faces, however, is the conservation of biodiversity. If we utilize this biodiversity in a sustainable manner, we can develop new products/services for several generations. It is only possible when we treat biodiversity as a valuable resource and prevent extinction of species globally. But the world is facing a dramatic loss of biodiversity. The loss of biodiversity has adverse effects on living being, water supply, food security, and resilience to extreme events. It has consequences for 78 % of the world’s extreme poor who live in rural areas and rely on ecosystems and the goods they produce to make a living. Conservation of biological diversity leads to conservation of crucial ecological diversity to preserve the continuity of food chains. Conservation of wildlife along with their natural habitats is the demand of the present scenario and the only way to moderate the self-destruction processes initiated by the mankind since the beginning of human civilization. The two conservation strategies are ex situ (outside natural habitat) and in situ (within natural habitat). Zoo, cryopreservation, and seed bank are the common examples of ex situ conservation, and protected areas like national park, sanctuary, biosphere reserve, conservation reserve, community reserve, etc. are examples of in situ conservation. Biological diversity has no regional/ national territories, and its conservation is therefore a combined responsibility of every society/country for the stable and healthy world.
Pradeep Kumar Singh, Rajveer Singh Chauhan, Pankaj Singh
11. Biosensors
Biosensors appear as suitable, fast responsive, and cost-effective analytical tools that are extensively being used in monitoring programs including food quality control, agriculture, bioprocess control, environmental monitoring, military, and medical diagnostics. Biosensor is a self-contained integrated device which uses biological mechanism and provides specific quantitative and semiquantitative information about the analyte of interest. Biosensing systems and methods are being developed as environmental quality monitoring tools in the assessment of ecological/biological quality to determine the potentially harmful pollutants (organic and inorganic) and also provide information about their toxic effects. Detection of small amount of biological samples, requirement of minimal tissue damage for in vivoscreening, on-site monitoring of clinical metabolites, and increased specificity and sensitivity in the order of ng/ml or pg/ml are some of the major concerns for the increasing need to develop biosensors as fast and economic methods for analysis in medical diagnostics. Mass production of molecular recognition elements with improved selectivity, affinity, and stability, immobilization techniques, miniaturization, multisensor array determinations, and operating conditions are some of the major potential areas of development that are expected to have an impact in biosensor technology. The future research for sustainable application of biosensors should rely on more efficient structure and function specificity of the biological components, noninvasive interfacing with the target molecule through mini-reactors, and improved digitization of the generated signal. Real-time parallel monitoring of multiple species is yet another driving force toward the development and commercialization of multichannel biosensors which are required for direct analysis in high-throughput screening systems.
Minal Garg, Sudhir Mehrotra
12. Environmental Control of Biotechnology Industries
Population explosion leads to deterioration and degradation of environment due to industrialization, urbanization, and agricultural practices. Industrial growth, economic development, urbanization, consumerization, etc. took place over last few decades to meet out the demand of growing population. All these activities result into generation of waste in enormous amount which is highly variable in nature. The nature of these wastes are simple organic compound to hazardous toxics materials using GMOs in industrial processing to produce desired products which involve different containment levels. Sustainable development includes the environment, economy, and community. It has become imperative to consider economic prosperity in such an integrated manner that social development is on one hand while environment protection on the other. There are various issues associated which greatly affect the sustainable development. These are regulation, planning, technological advancement assessment, globalization, and problems of developing countries. Environmental aspect of sustainable development and applications of technology must accept the recently implemented ambitious project CDM (Clean Development Mission) by the Government of India, wherein clean technology in general and green chemistry and white biotechnology in particular can make remarkable contribution toward the sustainable development. Wastes must be treated properly before disposing to the environment. Tools and techniques of biotechnology has given new impetus and opened new vistas in pollution control. Biosensors play critical role in detecting the pollutants even at very low concentration to assess the risk level.
Rajesh Sharma, Rishi Srivastva, Kartikeya Shukla, S. P. Tiwari
13. Bioleaching and Biomining
Universal reserves of high-grade ores are diminishing at an alarming rate due to the rapid increase in the demand for metals. Biomining is the extraction of specific metals from their ores through biological means, usually microorganism. Biomining is done in two steps often called bioleaching and biooxidation. Bioleaching commonly refers to biomining technology applied to base metals; whereas, biooxidation is normally applied to sulfidic-refractory gold ores and concentrates. Even though it’s a new technique used by the mining enterprise to extract minerals equivalent to copper, uranium, and gold from their ores, however, nowadays, biomining occupies an increasingly primary place among the available mining applied sciences. The biomining methods are affordable, nontoxic, effective, and likewise environment pleasant. Utilizing biotechnology, efficiency of biomining can also be extended with the aid of genetically modified microorganisms.
Surabhi Mahajan, Ankur Gupta, Rajendra Sharma
14. Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) and Environment
Genetically modified organisms (GMOs) or transgenic organisms are those whose genetic material has been altered for the production of desired biological products. GMOs are simply the most developed application of modern biotechnology in terms of research, commercialization, adoption, and regulation. Plants, animals, and microorganisms have all been genetically modified by various transformation methods for several purposes with medicinal, agricultural, environmental, and more recently industrial applications. Genetically modified (GM) plants are the predominant largest class of GMOs introduced into the environment for food and feed production.
These are theorized to reduce production costs due to reduced chemical and mechanical needs in planting, maintenance, and harvest. It is possible that this saving could be passed onto the consumer. Additional benefits to the consumers are the potential nutrition implications. GMO technology allows the creation of foods that are more nutrient dense. GMOs have many more applications but its total benefits have not yet been fully explored. So there is a need to increase the potential of researcher to generate the information to normalizing more benefits of GMOs in medical, agricultural, environmental, and industrial fields for sustainable future. This chapter summarizes GMOs, its types, labeling, applications, and health impact on human being.
Rasna Gupta, Ram Lakhan Singh
15. Degradable Polymers and Plastics of the Future: Steps Toward Environmental Sustainability, Regulations, and Safety Aspects
Plastics are an integral part of our life, and the usage is increasing due to its salient characteristics. Both synthetic and natural plastics have great application and a ubiquitous role in our modern lifestyle due to the broad range of properties. They range from newly designed degradable or synthetic plastics to natural biopolymers such as DNA and proteins that are fundamental to biological structure and function. Polymers are synthesized via polymerization of many small molecules, known as monomers. Plastics are ubiquitous material of choice in the modern economy – combining unrivaled functional properties with low cost and wide acceptability by consumers. While delivering many benefits, the current plastic economy has drawbacks that are becoming more apparent day by day. Polylactic acid and polyhydroxyalkanoates are considered to be two main polymers that have a future role in biodegradable mulches. In order to overcome drawbacks of nondegradable and toxic plastic products, efforts are being done. Challenges range from enhancing system effectiveness to achieve better economic and environmental outcomes to continuing to harness several benefits of plastic packaging. Biodegradable polymers are ensured for compliance to claims, mechanical properties, customer demands, and environmental sustainability.
V. P. Sharma, Ram Lakhan Singh, R. P. Singh
Principles and Applications of Environmental Biotechnology for a Sustainable Future
Ram Lakhan Singh
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Springer Singapore
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