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"Aquaculture, not the Internet, represents the most promising investment opportunity of the 21st Century."

- Peter Drucker, Management Expert & Economist

2015-02-14

Rapid Bacterial Colonisation of Low-Density Polyethylene Microplastics in Coastal Sediment Microcosms

Synthetic microplastics (<5-mm fragments) are emerging environmental contaminants that have been found to accumulate within coastal marine sediments worldwide. The ecological impacts and fate of microplastic debris are only beginning to be revealed, with previous research into these topics having primarily focused on higher organisms and/or pelagic environments, write A M Osborn et al, The University of Sheffield, UK.

Despite recent research into plastic-associated microorganisms in seawater, the microbial colonization of microplastics in benthic habitats has not been studied. Therefore, we employed a 14-day microcosm experiment to investigate bacterial colonization of low-density polyethylene (LDPE) microplastics within three types of coastal marine sediment from Spurn Point, Humber Estuary, U.K.

Conclusions

The results demonstrate that bacteria within coastal marine sediments can rapidly colonize LDPE microplastics, with evidence for the successional formation of plastisphere-specific bacterial assemblages. Although the taxonomic compositions of these assemblages are likely to differ between marine sediments and the water column, both Arcobacter and Colwellia spp. have previously been affiliated with the degradation of hydrocarbon contaminants within low-temperature marine environments.
Since hydrocarbon-degrading bacteria have also been discovered on plastic fragments in seawater, our data suggest that recruitment of hydrocarbonoclastic bacteria on microplastics is likely to represent a shared feature between both benthic and pelagic marine habitats.

Read the full article here


 
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