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The soil plastisphere

Authors: Matthias C. Rillig, Shin Woong Kim, Yong-Guan Zhu 

Abstract: Understanding the effects of plastic pollution in terrestrial ecosystems is a priority in environmental research. A central aspect of this suite of pollutants is that it entails particles, in addition to chemical compounds, and this makes plastic quite different from the vast majority of chemical environmental pollutants. Particles can be habitats for microbial communities, and plastics can be a source of chemical compounds that are released into the surrounding environment. In the aquatic literature, the term ‘plastisphere’ has been coined to refer to the microbial community colonizing plastic debris; here, we use a definition that also includes the immediate soil environment of these particles to align the definition with other concepts in soil microbiology. First, we highlight major differences in the plastisphere between aquatic and soil ecosystems, then we review what is currently known about the soil plastisphere, including the members of the microbial community that are enriched, and the possible mechanisms underpinning this selection. Then, we focus on outlining future prospects for research on the soil plastisphere.

Acknowledgement: Acknowledges support from PAPILLONS (Plastics in Agricultural Production: Impacts, Lifecycles and Long-term sustainability, No. 101000210) of the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme.

Keywords: soil; plastisphere; microplastics; microbial;

Published in: Nature Reviews Microbiology (2023), 11 September 2023

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