Plastic Pollution

Earthworms on a microplastics diet

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Science  04 Mar 2016:
Vol. 351, Issue 6277, pp. 1039
DOI: 10.1126/science.351.6277.1039-a

A common type of earthworm, Lumbricus terrestris

PHOTO:© NATURE PICTURE LIBRARY/ALAMY STOCK PHOTO

Microplastics commonly found in marine environments can cause harm to marine organisms when ingested. Terrestrial environments are also widely polluted with plastics, but little is known about their effect on terrestrial species. Huerta Lwanga et al. have investigated the effect of polyethylene microplastics in plant litter on earthworms. To provide a realistic exposure scenario, the authors added the microplastics to plant litter deposited on the soil surface. They show that environmentally relevant microplastic concentrations led to reduced earthworm growth and elevated mortality as compared to a control. Futhermore, earthworms may transport microplastics into soils, from which they may leach into surface waters.

Environ. Sci. Technol. 10.1021/acs.est.5b05478 (2016).

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