The amount of nano- and microplastic in the aquatic environment rises due to the industrial production of plastic and the degradation of plastic into smaller particles. Concerns have been raised about their incorporation into food webs. Little is known about the fate and effects of nanoplastic, especially for the freshwater environment. In this study, effects of nano-polystyrene (nano-PS) on the growth and photosynthesis of the green alga Scenedesmus obliquus and the growth, mortality, neonate production, and malformations of the zooplankter Daphnia magna were assessed. Nano-PS reduced population growth and reduced chlorophyll concentrations in the algae. Exposed Daphnia showed a reduced body size and severe alterations in reproduction. Numbers and body size of neonates were lower, while the number of neonate malformations among neonates rose to 68% of the individuals. These effects of nano-PS were observed between 0.22 and 103 mg nano-PS/L. Malformations occurred from 30 mg of nano-PS/L onward. Such plastic concentrations are much higher than presently reported for marine waters as well as freshwater, but may eventually occur in sediment pore waters. As far as we know, these results are the first to show that direct life history shifts in algae and Daphnia populations may occur as a result of exposure to nanoplastic.
Ellen Besseling, Bo Wang, Miquel Lürling, and Albert A. Koelmans, Environ. Sci. Technol., Vol. 48 (20), Pages 12336-12343, October 21, 2014