The term is often used in relation to ecology, waste management and environmental remediation (bioremediation). A term related to biodegradation is biomineralisation, in which organic matter is converted into minerals. Organic material can be degraded aerobically with oxygen, or anaerobically, without oxygen. 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. Biosurfactant, an extracellular surfactant secreted by microorganisms, enhances the biodegradation process. 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. Biodegradation is the chemical breakdown of materials by a physiological environment.
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