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Microplastics accumulate on pores in seed capsule and delay germination and root growth of the terrestrial vascular plant Lepidium sativum

Bosker, Thijs, Bouwman, Lotte J., Brun, Nadja R., Behrens, Paul, Vijver, Martina G.
Chemosphere 2019 v.226 pp. 774-781
Lepidium sativum, adverse effects, bioassays, confocal microscopy, germination, microplastics, plants (botany), root growth, root hairs, seeds, sewage sludge
The impacts of nano- and microplastics (<100 nm and <5 mm, respectively) on terrestrial systems is to the present largely unexplored. Plastic particles are likely to accumulate in these systems primarily by the application of sewage sludge. The aim of the current study was to investigate the effects of three sizes of plastic particles (50, 500, and 4800 nm) on a terrestrial plant (cress; Lepidium sativum), using a standardized 72 h bioassay. Cress seeds were exposed to five different concentrations of plastics, ranging from 103 to 107 particles mL−1. Germination rate was significantly reduced after 8 h of exposure for all three sizes of plastics, with increased adverse effect with increasing plastic sizes. Seeds exposed to 4800 nm microplastics showed a germination rate decline from 78% in control to 17% in the highest exposure. No difference in germination rate occurred after 24 h of exposure, regardless of the size of the plastic used. Significant differences in root growth were observed after 24 h, but not after 48 or 72 h of exposure. Impacts on germination are likely due to physical blockage of the pores in the seed capsule by microplastics as shown by confocal microscopy of fluorescent microplastics. In later stages, the microplastics particularly accumulated on the root hairs. This is the first detailed study on the effect of nano- and microplastics on a vascular, terrestrial plant, and our results indicate short-term and transient adverse effects.