Microplastic is an Abundant and Distinct Microbial Habitat in an Urban River

Recent research has documented microplastic particles (< 5 mm in diameter) in ocean habitats worldwide and in the Laurentian Great Lakes. Microplastic interacts with biota, including microorganisms, in these habitats, raising concerns about its ecological effects. Rivers may transport microplastic to marine habitats and the Great Lakes, but data on microplastic in rivers is limited. In a highly urbanized river in Chicago, Illinois, USA, we measured concentrations of microplastic that met or exceeded those measured in oceans and the Great Lakes, and we demonstrated that wastewater treatment plant effluent was a point source of microplastic. Results from high-throughput sequencing showed that bacterial assemblages colonizing microplastic within the river were less diverse and were significantly different in taxonomic composition compared to those from the water column and suspended organic matter.(…)

Amanda McCormick, Timothy J. Hoellein, Sherri A. Mason, Joseph Schluep, and John J. Kelly, Environ. Sci. Technol., Vol. 48 (20), Pages 11863-11871, October 21, 2014
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