Research ArticleECOLOGY

Nano- and microplastics affect the composition of freshwater benthic communities in the long term

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Science Advances  31 Jan 2020:
Vol. 6, no. 5, eaay4054
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aay4054


Given the societal concern about the presence of nano- and microplastics in the environment, our nescience with respect to in situ effects is disturbing. Data on long-term implications under ecologically realistic conditions are particularly important for the risk assessment of nano- and microplastics. Here, we evaluate the long-term (up to 15 months) effects of five concentrations of nano- and microplastics on the natural recolonization of sediments by a macroinvertebrate community. Effects were assessed on the community composition, population sizes and species diversity. Nano- and microplastics adversely affected the abundance of macroinvertebrates after 15 months, which was caused by a reduction in the number of Naididae at the highest concentration (5% plastic per sediment dry weight). For some other taxa, smaller but still significant positive effects were found over time, altogether demonstrating that nano- and microplastics affected the community composition.

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