The bacterial colonisation of microplastic debris in coastal marine sediments

Condensed Matter lunchtime seminar

The bacterial colonisation of microplastic debris in coastal marine sediments

  • Event time: 1:00pm
  • Event date: 15th October 2012
  • Speaker: Jesse Harrison (Formerly School of Physics & Astronomy, University of Edinburgh)
  • Location: Room 2511,

Event details

Synthetic microplastics (≤ 5-mm fragments) are rapidly emerging pollutants in coastal environments across the globe. Our understanding of their ecological impacts and fate is negligible. In this study, a 14-day laboratory microcosm experiment was used to investigate bacterial colonisation of low-density polyethylene (LDPE) fragments over time and within three types of coastal sediment (ranging from sand to silt). Using microscopy and a range of molecular analyses, bacteria were demonstrated to rapidly colonise LDPE fragments, with bacterial community structure and diversity differing significantly from those in bulk sediments. The composition of LDPE-colonising assemblages converged over time, with site-specific populations of the genera Arcobacter and Colwellia identified as dominant members of the plastic-associated communities after 14 days of exposure. Log-fold increases in the relative abundance of LDPE-associated bacteria occurred within 7 days of exposure with bacterial abundance differing significantly across sediment types, as demonstrated by Q-PCR amplification of 16S rRNA genes. These results provide a foundation to characterising ecological interactions between microorganisms and microplastics in marine sediments.

About Condensed Matter lunchtime seminars

This is a weekly series of informal talks given primarily by members of the soft condensed matter and statistical mechanics groups, but is also open to members of other groups and external visitors. The aim of the series is to promote discussion and learning of various topics at a level suitable to the broad background of the group. Everyone is welcome to attend..

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