Microplastics affect assimilation efficiency in the freshwater amphipod Gammarus fossarum

An important issue in assessing microplastics is whether this newly emerging type of pollution affects freshwater invertebrates. This study was designed to examine the interactions between the amphipod Gammarus fossarum and two types of microplastics. To determine the ingestion and egestion of polyamide (PA) fibres (500 × 20 μm), amphipods were exposed to four concentrations (100, 540, 2680, 13,380 PA fibres cm−2 base area of glass beakers) and four exposure times (0.5, 2, 8, 32 h) as well as four post-exposure times (1, 2, 4, 16 h). We demonstrate a positive correlation between concentration and ingestion of PA fibres. Fibres were found in the gut after 0.5 h of exposure. Egestion was rapid and the digestive tract was empty 16 h after exposure ended. To investigate whether polystyrene (PS) beads (1.6 μm) can be taken up in the epithelial cells of the gut and the midgut glands, four concentrations (500, 2500, 12,500, 60,000 PS beads mL−1) were tested. Cryosections exhibited fluorescent PS beads only within the gut lumen. In a 28-day feeding experiment with both, fibres and beads, we studied the amphipod’s feeding rate, assimilation efficiency and wet weight change. The exposure to PA fibres (2680 PA fibres cm−2 base area of glass beakers) significantly reduced the assimilation efficiency of the animals. While both tested polymer types are ingested and egested, PA fibres can impair the health and ecological functions of freshwater amphipods under continuous exposure.

Pascal BlarerPatricia Burkhardt-Holm, Environmental Science and Pollution Research, December 2016, Volume 23, Issue 23, pp 23522–23532

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