The study investigated microbial population dynamics in soils of Greater Port Harcourt Area, Nigeria. The study involved the quantification of petroleum pollutants and the enumeration and characterization of culturable fungi and bacteria. Gas Chromatograph FID method was used to quantify total petroleum hydrocarbons (TPH) in the soil while morphological and biochemical tests were used to characterize the microorganisms. The highest TPH was 9,759.37±883.36 ppm which exceeded the Department of Petroleum Resources’ (DPR’s) intervention value of 5,000 ppm. The percentage of hydrocarbon utilizing fungi (% HUF) ranged between 1.93±0.57 and 66.55±5.60 which were observed in sites A1 (Aluu) and CA (Agricultural control) respectively. The percentage of hydrocarbon utilizing bacteria (% HUB) ranged between 0.12±0.01 and 7.89±1.25 which was observed in sites A3 (Emuoha) and CU (Urban control) respectively. The most prevalent bacterial species includes Bacillus subtilis, Micrococcus lylae, Staphylococcus aureus, Bacillus cereus and Alcaligen faecalis. The most prevalent HUB isolate was Bacillus subtilis. The most prevalent fungal isolates were Aspergillus niger, Aspergillus flavus and Candida torulopsis. Aspergillus niger was the most prevalent among the HUF isolates which was identified in12 sites. It was concluded that the study sites harboured TPH degrading microorganisms that are appropriate for bioremediation of TPH polluted sites.
Keywords: Total petroleum hydrocarbons, Soil pollution, Biodiversity, Fungi, Bacteria