Biofilm and Diatom Succession on Polyethylene (PE) and Biodegradable Plastic Bags in Two Marine Habitats: Early Signs of Degradation in the Pelagic and Benthic Zone?

The production of biodegradable plastic is increasing. Given the augmented littering of these products an increasing input into the sea is expected. Previous laboratory experiments have shown that degradation of plastic starts within days to weeks. Little is known about the early composition and activity of biofilms found on biodegradable and conventional plastic debris and its correlation to degradation in the marine environment. In this study we investigated the early formation of biofilms on plastic shopper bags and its consequences for the degradation of plastic. Samples of polyethylene and biodegradable plastic were tested in the Mediterranean Sea for 15 and 33 days. The samples were distributed equally to a shallow benthic (sedimentary seafloor at 6 m water depth) and a pelagic habitat (3 m water depth) to compare the impact of these different environments on fouling and degradation. The amount of biofilm increased on both plastic types and in both habitats. The diatom abundance and diversity differed significantly between the habitats and the plastic types. Diatoms were more abundant on samples from the pelagic zone. (…)

Andreas Eich, Tobias Mildenberger, Christian Laforsch, Miriam Weber, PLoS ONE 10 (9) : e0137201, September 2015

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