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Enchytraeus crypticus Avoid Soil Spiked with Microplastic

Pflugmacher, Stephan; Huttunen, Johanna H.; Wolff, Marya-Anne von; Penttinen, Olli-Pekka; Kim, Yong Jun; Kim, Sanghun; Mitrovic, Simon M.; Esterhuizen-Londt, Maranda

Microplastics (MPs) of varying sizes are widespread pollutants in our environment. The general opinion is that the smaller the size, the more dangerous the MPs are due to enhanced uptake possibilities. It would be of considerably ecological significance to understand the response of biota to microplastic contamination both physically and physiologically. Here, we report on an area choice experiment (avoidance test) using Enchytraeus crypticus, in which we mixed different amounts of high-density polyethylene microplastic particles into the soil. In all experimental scenarios, more Enchytraeids moved to the unspiked sections or chose a lower MP-concentration. Worms in contact with MP exhibited an enhanced oxidative stress status, measured as the induced activity of the antioxidative enzymes catalase and glutathione S-transferase. As plastic polymers per se are nontoxic, the exposure time employed was too short for chemicals to leach from the microplastic, and as the microplastic particles used in these experiments were too large (4 mm) to be consumed by the Enchytraeids, the likely cause for the avoidance and oxidative stress could be linked to altered soil properties.
Published in: Toxics, 10.3390/toxics8010010, MDPI