What is it about?

We reviewed published research articles for evidence of interaction between microplastics and algae or aquatic plants (primary producers) and also conducted our own experiment where freshwater cyanobacteria (blue-green algae) were grown with and without added microplastics from a body wash. While limited in number, substantial peer-reviewed reports of interaction between microplastics and algae existed, and our experiment also indicated interaction between cyanobacteria and body wash microplastics. These interactions manifested as changes in algal metabolism and growth when exposed to microplastics.

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Why is it important?

It is important because we have limited information on interaction between primary producers and microplastics in water, which then could affect animals that depend on them for food and shelter.

Perspectives

Much of existing literature on the ecological effects of aquatic plastic pollution focused on effects of ingestion and injuries to animals (zooplankton, macroinvertebrates, fish, birds and mammals). Our study aimed to shed a new light on the possible effects of microplastics at the bottom of the aquatic food web.

Kiyoko Yokota
State University of New York

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This page is a summary of: Finding the missing piece of the aquatic plastic pollution puzzle: Interaction between primary producers and microplastics, Limnology and Oceanography Letters, June 2017, Wiley, DOI: 10.1002/lol2.10040.
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