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Environmentally relevant microplastic exposure affects sediment-dwelling bivalves

Bour, Agathe, Haarr, Ane, Keiter, Steffen, Hylland, Ketil
Environmental pollution 2018 v.236 pp. 652-660
Abra nitida, carbohydrates, chronic exposure, dose response, ecotoxicology, energy, lipid content, long term effects, marine sediments, microparticles, particle size, plastics, protein content
Most microplastics are expected to sink and end up in marine sediments. However, very little is known concerning their potential impact on sediment-dwelling organisms. We studied the long-term impact of microplastic exposure on two sediment-dwelling bivalve species. Ennucula tenuis and Abra nitida were exposed to polyethylene microparticles at three concentrations (1; 10 and 25 mg/kg of sediment) for four weeks. Three size classes (4–6; 20–25 and 125–500 μm) were used to study the influence of size on microplastic ecotoxicity. Microplastic exposure did not affect survival, condition index or burrowing behaviour in either bivalve species. However, significant changes in energy reserves were observed. No changes were observed in protein, carbohydrate or lipid contents in E. tenuis, with the exception of a decrease in lipid content for one condition. However, total energy decreased in a dose-dependent manner for bivalves exposed to the largest particles. To the contrary, no significant changes in total energy were observed for A. nitida, although a significant decrease of protein content was observed for individuals exposed to the largest particles, at all concentrations. Concentration and particle size significantly influenced microplastic impacts on bivalves, the largest particles and higher concentrations leading to more severe effects. Several hypotheses are presented to explain the observed modulation of energy reserves, including the influence of microplastic size and concentration. Our results suggest that long-term exposure to microplastics at environmentally relevant concentrations can impact marine benthic biota.