AbstractAgricultural soils are a major reservoir of microplastics, and concerns have arisen about the impacts of microplastics on soil properties and functioning. Here, we measured the physical properties of a silt loam in response to the incorporation of polyester fibers and polypropylene granules over a wide range of concentrations. We further elucidated the underlying mechanisms through determining the role of microplastic shape and the baseline effects from the amendment of soil particles. The incorporation of microplastics into soil tended to increase contact angle and saturated hydraulic conductivity, decrease bulk density and water holding capacity, while did not affect aggregate stability. Polyester fibers affected soil physical properties more profoundly than polypropylene granules, due to the vastly different shape of fibers from that of soil particles. However, changes in soil properties were gradual, and signicant changes did not occur until a high concentration of microplastics was reached (i.e., 0.5% w/w for polyester fibers and 2% w/w for polypropylene granules). Currently, microplastic concentrations in soils not heavily polluted with plastics are far below these concentrations, and results from this study suggest that microplastics at environmentally relevant concentrations have no significant effects on soil physical properties.
Published: April 19, 2023