A field-scale experiment with a complete randomized block design was performed to study the degradation of buried oil on a shoreline over a period of almost 1 year. The following four treatments were examined in three replicate blocks: two levels of fertilizer treatment of oil-treated plots, one receiving a weekly application of liquid fertilizer and the other treated with a slow-release fertilizer; and two controls, one not treated with oil and the other treated with oil but not with fertilizer. Oil degradation was monitored by measuring carbon dioxide evolution and by chemical analysis of the oil. Buried oil was degraded to a significantly greater extent in fertilized plots, but no differences in oil chemistry were observed between the two different fertilizer treatments, although carbon dioxide production was significantly higher in the oil-treated plots that were treated with slow-release fertilizer during the first 14 days of the experiment. Bacterial communities present in the beach sediments were profiled by denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis (DGGE) analysis of PCR-amplified 16S rRNA gene fragments and 16S rRNA amplified by reverse transcriptase PCR. Similarities between the DGGE profiles were calculated, and similarity matrices were subjected to statistical analysis. These analyses showed that although significant hydrocarbon degradation occurred both in plots treated with oil alone and in the plots treated with oil and liquid fertilizer, the bacterial community structure in these plots was, in general, not significantly different from that in the control plots that were not treated with oil and did not change over time. In contrast, the bacterial community structure in the plots treated with oil and slow-release fertilizer changed rapidly, and there were significant differences over time, as well as between blocks and even within plots. The differences were probably related to the higher concentrations of nutrients measured in interstitial water from the plots treated with slow-release fertilizer. Bacteria with 16S rRNA sequences closely related (>99.7% identity) to Alcanivorax borkumensis and Pseudomonas stutzeri sequences dominated during the initial phase of oil degradation in the plots treated with slow-release fertilizer. Field data were compared to the results of previous laboratory microcosm experiments, which revealed significant differences.