Phanerochaete chrysosporium was shown to rapidly decolorise a solution of natural organic matter (NOM). The effect of various parameters such as carbon and nitrogen content, pH, ionic strength, NOM concentration and addition of Mn2+ on the colour removal process was investigated. The rapid decolorisation was related to fungal growth and biosorption rather than biodegradation as neither carbon nor nitrogen limitation, nor Mn2+ addition, triggered the decolorisation process. Low pH (pH 3) and increased ionic strength (up to 50 g L‒1 added NaCl) led to greater specific removal (NOM/unit biomass), probably due to increased electrostatic bonding between the humic material and the biomass. Adsorption of NOM with viable and inactivated (autoclaved or by sodium azide) fungal pellets occurred within 24 hours and the colour removal depended on the viability, method of inactivation and pH. Colour removal by viable pellets was higher under the same conditions, and this, combined with desorption data, confirmed that fungal metabolic activity was important in the decolorisation process. Overall, removals of up to 40–50% NOM from solution were obtained. Of this, removal by adsorption was estimated as 60–70%, half of which was physicochemical, the other half metabolically-dependent biosorption and bioaccumulation. The remainder was considered to be removed by biodegradation, although some of this may be ascribed to bioaccumulation and metabolically-dependent biosorption.

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