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Effects of polyester microfibers on soil physical properties: Perception from a field and a pot experiment

Zhang, G.S., Zhang, F.X., Li, X.T.
The Science of the total environment 2019 v.670 pp. 1-7
bulk density, clay soils, field experimentation, hydraulic conductivity, microplastics, polyesters, porosity, soil density, soil quality, sustainable land management, terrestrial ecosystems, wet-dry cycles
Understanding soil physical properties is essential for soil quality management and sustainable land use. With the growing accumulation of microplastics in soils, a better understanding of the impact of microplastics on soil physical properties is crucial to conserve and manage soil quality. This study explored the effects of polyester microfiber (PMF) concentrations (0, 0.1% and 0.3%) on bulk density, porosity, aggregation and hydraulic conductivity of a clayey soil from a field experiment (1 year) and a pot experiment (6 wet-dry cycles). Polyester microfibers significantly increased the volume of >30 μm pores and reduced the volume of <30 μm pores compared to the control treatment. However, there were no detectable changes in the soil bulk density and saturated hydraulic conductivity between the PMF treatments and the control treatment. Interestingly, we observed that polyester microfibers significantly increased the contents of water stable large macroaggregates (>2 mm) in the 0.3% PMF (44%) and 0.1% PMF (39%) treatments compared to the control treatment (31%) in the pot experiment, but this was not true in the field experiment. The efficient interaction between polyester microfibers and fine soil particles and the frequent wet-dry cycles enhanced the formation and stability of macro-aggregates induced by polyester microfibers in the pot experiment. Overall, our results provide valuable evidence for microplastic influences on soil physical properties. Because microplastics are long-term anthropogenic contaminants, it is necessary to further study the impacts of microplastics on soil quality for terrestrial ecosystem sustainability.