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      Microplastic is an Abundant and Distinct Microbial Habitat in an Urban River

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          Abstract

          Recent research has documented microplastic particles (< 5 mm in diameter) in ocean habitats worldwide and in the Laurentian Great Lakes. Microplastic interacts with biota, including microorganisms, in these habitats, raising concerns about its ecological effects. Rivers may transport microplastic to marine habitats and the Great Lakes, but data on microplastic in rivers is limited. In a highly urbanized river in Chicago, Illinois, USA, we measured concentrations of microplastic that met or exceeded those measured in oceans and the Great Lakes, and we demonstrated that wastewater treatment plant effluent was a point source of microplastic. Results from high-throughput sequencing showed that bacterial assemblages colonizing microplastic within the river were less diverse and were significantly different in taxonomic composition compared to those from the water column and suspended organic matter. Several taxa that include plastic decomposing organisms and pathogens were more abundant on microplastic. These results demonstrate that microplastic in rivers are a distinct microbial habitat and may be a novel vector for the downstream transport of unique bacterial assemblages. In addition, this study suggests that urban rivers are an overlooked and potentially significant component of the global microplastic life cycle.

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          Author and article information

          Journal
          Environmental Science & Technology
          Environ. Sci. Technol.
          American Chemical Society (ACS)
          0013-936X
          1520-5851
          October 2014
          October 21 2014
          October 06 2014
          October 21 2014
          : 48
          : 20
          : 11863-11871
          Affiliations
          [1 ]Department of Biology, Loyola University Chicago, 1032 West Sheridan Road, Chicago, Illinois 60660, United States
          [2 ]State University of New York at Fredonia, 280 Central Avenue, Fredonia, New York 14063, United States
          Article
          10.1021/es503610r
          25230146
          © 2014
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