Microplastic polymer properties as deterministic factors driving terrestrial plastisphere microbiome assembly and succession in the field

authored by
Stephan Rohrbach, Gerasimos Gkoutselis, Linda Hink, Alfons R Weig, Martin Obst, Astrid Diekmann, Adrian Ho, Gerhard Rambold, Marcus A Horn

Environmental microplastic (MP) is ubiquitous in aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems providing artificial habitats for microbes. Mechanisms of MP colonization, MP polymer impacts, and effects on soil microbiomes are largely unknown in terrestrial systems. Therefore, we experimentally tested the hypothesis that MP polymer type is an important deterministic factor affecting MP community assembly by incubating common MP polymer types in situ in landfill soil for 14 months. 16S rRNA gene amplicon sequencing indicated that MP polymers have specific impacts on plastisphere microbiomes, which are subsets of the soil microbiome. Chloroflexota, Gammaproteobacteria, certain Nitrososphaerota, and Nanoarchaeota explained differences among MP polymers and time points. Plastisphere microbial community composition derived from different MP diverged over time and was enriched in potential pathogens. PICRUSt predictions of pathway abundances and quantitative PCR of functional marker genes indicated that MP polymers exerted an ambivalent effect on genetic potentials of biogeochemical cycles. Overall, the data indicates that (i) polymer type as deterministic factor rather than stochastic factors drives plastisphere community assembly, (ii) MP impacts greenhouse gas metabolism, xenobiotic degradation and pathogen distribution, and (iii) MP serves as an ideal model system for studying fundamental questions in microbial ecology such as community assembly mechanisms in terrestrial environments.

Institute of Microbiology
External Organisation(s)
University of Bayreuth
German Institute of Rubber Technology (DIK e.V.)
Environmental microbiology
Publication date
Publication status
E-pub ahead of print
Peer reviewed
ASJC Scopus subject areas
Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics, Microbiology
Sustainable Development Goals
SDG 15 - Life on Land
Electronic version(s)
https://doi.org/10.1111/1462-2920.16234 (Access: Open)
https://doi.org/10.15488/13680 (Access: Open)