AbstractWhile much is known about microplastics in aquatic environments, only few studies have focused on how microplastics interact with terrestrial organisms. The objective of our study was to investigate the interactions of earthworms with microplastics in a natural environment with environmentally realistic plastic concentrations. We investigated whether earthworms would ingest microplastics and incorporate them into their bodies and cast, and whether microplastics would alter the intestinal and soil microbiome. Lumbricus terrestris was exposed to two types of mi croplastics, biodegradable polybutylene adipate terephthalate (PBAT) and low-density polyethylene (LDPE) in mesocosoms filled with natural soil. Microplastics were mixed with poplar leaves and earthworms were allowed to forage for food for 20 days. Surface and bulk soil, earthworm cast, and earthworms themselves were sampled and analyzed for plastic content and microbial communities. Earthworms did not show macroscopic health deterioration (weight loss, vitality). We observed microplastics particles in earthworm casts and guts. Raman spectroscopy indicated that PBAT in guts and cast had degraded to some extent; however, LDPE remained unchanged among the different samples. Microbial analysis showed that soil and casts has similar microbial communities; however, they were signicantly different from the guts samples. Microplastic treatments did not result in a statistically signicant change in bacterial richness, diversity or community composition compared to controls.
Published: June 9, 2023