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Biodegradable polymers boost reproduction in the earthworm Eisenia fetida

Title data

Holzinger, Anja ; Hink, Linda ; Sehl, Elmar ; Rüppel, Nadine ; Lehndorff, Eva ; Weig, Alfons ; Agarwal, Seema ; Horn, Marcus A. ; Feldhaar, Heike:
Biodegradable polymers boost reproduction in the earthworm Eisenia fetida.
In: Science of the Total Environment. Vol. 892 (7 June 2023) . - 164670.
ISSN 0048-9697
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.scitotenv.2023.164670

Project information

Project title:
Project's official title
Project's id
SFB 1357 Mikroplastik
391977956

Project financing: Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft

Abstract in another language

Microplastic contamination in soil has become a global environmental threat as it adversely affects terrestrial organisms like earthworms as well as soil properties. Especially biodegradable polymers have recently been used as an alternative to conventional polymer types, although their impact remains poorly understood. Thus, we studied the effect of conventional (polystyrene: PS, polyethylene terephthalate: PET, polypropylene: PP) versus aliphatic polyesters classified as biodegradable polymers (poly-(l-lactide): PLLA, polycaprolactone: PCL) on the earthworm Eisenia fetida and soil properties (pH and cation exchange capacity). We addressed direct effects on the weight gain and reproductive success of E. fetida, and indirect effects, like changes in the gut microbial composition as well as the production of short-chain fatty acids by the gut microbiota. Earthworms were exposed for eight weeks in an artificial soil amended with two environmentally relevant concentrations (1 % and 2.5 % (w/w)) of the different microplastic types. PLLA and PCL boosted the number of cocoons produced by 135 % and 54 %, respectively. Additionally, exposure to these two polymers increased number of hatched juveniles, changed gut microbial beta-diversity, and increased the production of the short chain fatty acid lactate compared to the control treatments. Interestingly, we also found a positive effect of PP on the earthworm's body weight and reproductive success. The interaction of microplastic and earthworms decreased soil pH by about 1.5 units in the presence of PLLA and PCL. No polymer effect on the cation exchange capacity of soil was found. In general, neither the presence of conventional nor biodegradable polymers had any adverse effects on any of the studied endpoints. Our results suggest that the effects of microplastic highly depend on the polymer type, and that the degradation of biodegradable polymers might be enhanced in the gut of earthworms, which implies that they may use biodegradable polymers as a potential carbon source.

Further data

Item Type: Article in a journal
Refereed: Yes
Institutions of the University: Faculties
Faculties > Faculty of Biology, Chemistry and Earth Sciences
Faculties > Faculty of Biology, Chemistry and Earth Sciences > Department of Biology
Faculties > Faculty of Biology, Chemistry and Earth Sciences > Department of Biology > Professor Animal Population Ecology
Faculties > Faculty of Biology, Chemistry and Earth Sciences > Department of Biology > Professor Animal Population Ecology > Professor Animal Population Ecology - Univ.-Prof. Dr. Heike Feldhaar
Faculties > Faculty of Biology, Chemistry and Earth Sciences > Department of Chemistry
Faculties > Faculty of Biology, Chemistry and Earth Sciences > Department of Chemistry > Chair Macromolecular Chemistry II
Faculties > Faculty of Biology, Chemistry and Earth Sciences > Department of Earth Sciences
Faculties > Faculty of Biology, Chemistry and Earth Sciences > Department of Earth Sciences > Chair Soil Ecology
Faculties > Faculty of Biology, Chemistry and Earth Sciences > Department of Earth Sciences > Chair Soil Ecology > Chair Soil Ecology - Univ.-Prof. Dr. Eva Lehndorff
Profile Fields
Profile Fields > Advanced Fields > Ecology and the Environmental Sciences
Research Institutions > Central research institutes > Bayreuth Center of Ecology and Environmental Research- BayCEER
Research Institutions > Collaborative Research Centers, Research Unit > SFB 1357 - MIKROPLASTIK
Result of work at the UBT: Yes
DDC Subjects: 500 Science > 500 Natural sciences
500 Science > 540 Chemistry
500 Science > 550 Earth sciences, geology
500 Science > 570 Life sciences, biology
Date Deposited: 20 Jun 2023 07:23
Last Modified: 20 Jun 2023 07:23
URI: https://eref.uni-bayreuth.de/id/eprint/81371