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Year-Long Microbial Succession on Microplastics in Wastewater: Chaotic Dynamics Outweigh Preferential Growth
Microorganisms, Volume: 10, Issue: 9, Start page: 1775
Swansea University Author: Jesus Ojeda Ledo
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Microplastics are a globally-ubiquitous aquatic pollutant, and have been heavily studied over the last decade. Of particularly interest are the interactions between microplastics and microorgan-isms, especially the pursuit to discover a plastic-specific biome; the so called plastisphere. To follow t...
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Microplastics are a globally-ubiquitous aquatic pollutant, and have been heavily studied over the last decade. Of particularly interest are the interactions between microplastics and microorgan-isms, especially the pursuit to discover a plastic-specific biome; the so called plastisphere. To follow this up, a year-long microcosm experimental setup was deployed to expose 5 different microplastic types (and silica beads control) to activated aerobic wastewater in controlled condi-tions, with microbial communities being measured 4 times over the course of the year using 16S rDNA (bacterial) and ITS (fungal) amplicon sequencing. The biofilm community shows no evi-dence of a specific plastisphere, even after a year of incubation. Indeed, the microbial communities (particularly bacterial) show a clear trend of increasing dissimilarity between plastic types as time increases. Despite little evidence for a plastic-specific community, there was a slight grouping observed for polyolefins (PE and PP) in 6-12 month biofilms. Additionally, an OTU assigned to the genus Devosia was identified on many plastics, increasing over time, while showing no growth on silicate (natural particle) controls, suggesting this could be either a slow-growing plastic-specific taxon, or a symbiont to such. Both substrate-associated findings were only possible to observe in samples incubated for 6 - 12 months, which highlights the importance in studying long-term microbial community dynamics on plastic surfaces.
Faculty of Science and Engineering
This work was funded by a NERC (Natural Environment Research Council) CASE studentship (NE/K007521) with contribution from industrial partner Fera Science Ltd., United Kingdom.