Microplastics provide new microbial niches in aquatic environments

Date of publication 22 June 2020

Authors Yang, Yuyi; Liu, Wenzhi; Zhang, Zulin; Grossart, Hans-Peter; Gadd, Geoffrey Michael.

Sources Applied microbiology and biotechnology : (2020)

DOILink https://doi.org/10.1007/s00253-020-10704-x


Microplastics in the biosphere are currently of great environmental concern because of their potential toxicity for aquatic biota and human health and association with pathogenic microbiota. Microplastics can occur in high abundance in all aquatic environments, including oceans, rivers and lakes. Recent findings have highlighted the role of microplastics as important vectors for microorganisms, which can form fully developed biofilms on this artificial substrate. Microplastics therefore provide new microbial niches in the aquatic environment, and the developing biofilms may significantly differ in microbial composition compared to natural free-living or particle-associated microbial populations in the surrounding water. In this article, we discuss the composition and ecological function of the microbial communities found in microplastic biofilms. The potential factors that influence the richness and diversity of such microbial microplastic communities are also evaluated. Microbe-microbe and microbe-substrate interactions in microplastic biofilms have been little studied and are not well understood. Multiomics tools together with morphological, physiological and biochemical analyses should be combined to provide a more comprehensive overview on the ecological role of microplastic biofilms. These new microbial niches have so far unknown consequences for microbial ecology and environmental processes in aquatic ecosystems. More knowledge is required on the microbial community composition of microplastic biofilms and their ecological functions in order to better evaluate consequences for the environment and animal health, including humans, especially since the worldwide abundance of microplastics is predicted to dramatically increase. Key Points• Bacteria are mainly studied in community analyses: fungi are neglected.• Microbial colonization of microplastics depends on substrate, location and time.• Community ecology is a promising approach to investigate microbial colonization.• Biodegradable plastics, and ecological roles of microplastic biofilms, need analysis.

TSC Opinion

Dans cette étude, les auteurs décrivent les différents de biofilms qui colonisent les débris plastiques, leur fonctionnement et leur interaction avec le reste de l’écosystème. Dans les zones géographiques où ils sont nombreux, les effets combinés de tous ces biofilms deviennent significatifs sur la qualité des eaux. Le terme « rôle écologique » est tout à fait approprié. Il peut être négatif par la potentialisation de certains polluants, mais aussi positif, par dégradation accélérée de la matière organique dissoute, jouant ainsi le même rôle qu’une station d’épuration biologique non contrôlée.

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