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Microplastics and Soil Degradation

“Microplastics (plastics <5 mm, including nanoplastics which are <0.1 μm) originate from the fragmentation of large plastic litter or from direct environmental emission. Their potential impacts in terrestrial ecosystems remain largely unexplored despite numerous reported effects on marine organisms. Most plastics arriving in the oceans were produced, used, and often disposed on land. Hence, it is within terrestrial systems that microplastics might first interact with biota eliciting ecologically relevant impacts. This article introduces the pervasive microplastic contamination as a potential agent of global change in terrestrial systems, highlights the physical and chemical nature of the respective observed effects, and discusses the broad toxicity of nanoplastics derived from plastic breakdown. Making relevant links to the fate of microplastics in aquatic continental systems, we here present new insights into the mechanisms of impacts on terrestrial geochemistry, the biophysical environment, and ecotoxicology. Broad changes in continental environments are possible even in particle‐rich habitats such as soils. Furthermore, there is a growing body of evidence indicating that microplastics interact with terrestrial organisms that mediate essential ecosystem services and functions, such as soil dwelling invertebrates, terrestrial fungi, and plant‐pollinators. Therefore, research is needed to clarify the terrestrial fate and effects of microplastics. We suggest that due to the widespread presence, environmental persistence, and various interactions with continental biota, microplastic pollution might represent an emerging global change threat to terrestrial ecosystems."

(Souza Machado et al, 2017, Microplastics as an emerging threat to terrestrial ecosystems)

More information:
_Soil retrogression and degradation
_Plastic planet: How tiny plastic particles are polluting our soil
_Microplastics found in fertilisers being applied to gardens and farmland
_Organic fertilizer as a vehicle for the entry of microplastic into the environment

Earthworm nest

Earthworms and Microplastics

“Despite great general benefits derived from plastic use, accumulation of plastic material in ecosystems, and especially microplastic, is becoming an increasing environmental concern. Microplastic has been extensively studied in aquatic environments, with very few studies focusing on soils. We here tested the idea that microplastic particles (polyethylene beads) could be transported from the soil surface down the soil profile via earthworms. We used Lumbricus terrestris L., an anecic earthworm species, in a factorial greenhouse experiment with four different microplastic sizes. Presence of earthworms greatly increased the presence of microplastic particles at depth (we examined 3 soil layers, each 3.5 cm deep), with smaller PE microbeads having been transported downward to a greater extent. Our study clearly shows that earthworms can be significant transport agents of microplastics in soils, incorporating this material into soil, likely via casts, burrows (affecting soil hydraulics), egestion and adherence to the earthworm exterior. This movement has potential consequences for exposure of other soil biota to microplastics, for the residence times of microplastic at greater depth, and for the possible eventual arrival of microplastics in the groundwater.”

(Rilling et al, 2017, Microplastic transport in soil by earthworms)

More infromation:
_Microplastics in the Terrestrial Ecosystem: Implications for Lumbricus terrestris (Oligochaeta, Lumbricidae)

Microplastics in soil


_How Earthworms Work
_Earthworms Wiki



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