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      Biodegradable Plastic Mulch Films: Impacts on Soil Microbial Communities and Ecosystem Functions

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          Abstract

          Agricultural plastic mulch films are widely used in specialty crop production systems because of their agronomic benefits. Biodegradable plastic mulches (BDMs) offer an environmentally sustainable alternative to conventional polyethylene (PE) mulch. Unlike PE films, which need to be removed after use, BDMs are tilled into soil where they are expected to biodegrade. However, there remains considerable uncertainty about long-term impacts of BDM incorporation on soil ecosystems. BDMs potentially influence soil microbial communities in two ways: first, as a surface barrier prior to soil incorporation, indirectly affecting soil microclimate and atmosphere (similar to PE films) and second, after soil incorporation, as a direct input of physical fragments, which add carbon, microorganisms, additives, and adherent chemicals. This review summarizes the current literature on impacts of plastic mulches on soil biological and biogeochemical processes, with a special emphasis on BDMs. The combined findings indicated that when used as a surface barrier, plastic mulches altered soil microbial community composition and functioning via microclimate modification, though the nature of these alterations varied between studies. In addition, BDM incorporation into soil can result in enhanced microbial activity and enrichment of fungal taxa. This suggests that despite the fact that total carbon input from BDMs is minuscule, a stimulatory effect on microbial activity may ultimately affect soil organic matter dynamics. To address the current knowledge gaps, long term studies and a better understanding of impacts of BDMs on nutrient biogeochemistry are needed. These are critical to evaluating BDMs as they relate to soil health and agroecosystem sustainability.

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          Transport and release of chemicals from plastics to the environment and to wildlife.

          Plastics debris in the marine environment, including resin pellets, fragments and microscopic plastic fragments, contain organic contaminants, including polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, petroleum hydrocarbons, organochlorine pesticides (2,2'-bis(p-chlorophenyl)-1,1,1-trichloroethane, hexachlorinated hexanes), polybrominated diphenylethers, alkylphenols and bisphenol A, at concentrations from sub ng g(-1) to microg g(-1). Some of these compounds are added during plastics manufacture, while others adsorb from the surrounding seawater. Concentrations of hydrophobic contaminants adsorbed on plastics showed distinct spatial variations reflecting global pollution patterns. Model calculations and experimental observations consistently show that polyethylene accumulates more organic contaminants than other plastics such as polypropylene and polyvinyl chloride. Both a mathematical model using equilibrium partitioning and experimental data have demonstrated the transfer of contaminants from plastic to organisms. A feeding experiment indicated that PCBs could transfer from contaminated plastics to streaked shearwater chicks. Plasticizers, other plastics additives and constitutional monomers also present potential threats in terrestrial environments because they can leach from waste disposal sites into groundwater and/or surface waters. Leaching and degradation of plasticizers and polymers are complex phenomena dependent on environmental conditions in the landfill and the chemical properties of each additive. Bisphenol A concentrations in leachates from municipal waste disposal sites in tropical Asia ranged from sub microg l(-1) to mg l(-1) and were correlated with the level of economic development.
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            Microplastics in the aquatic and terrestrial environment: sources (with a specific focus on personal care products), fate and effects

            Due to the widespread use and durability of synthetic polymers, plastic debris occurs in the environment worldwide. In the present work, information on sources and fate of microplastic particles in the aquatic and terrestrial environment, and on their uptake and effects, mainly in aquatic organisms, is reviewed. Microplastics in the environment originate from a variety of sources. Quantitative information on the relevance of these sources is generally lacking, but first estimates indicate that abrasion and fragmentation of larger plastic items and materials containing synthetic polymers are likely to be most relevant. Microplastics are ingested and, mostly, excreted rapidly by numerous aquatic organisms. So far, there is no clear evidence of bioaccumulation or biomagnification. In laboratory studies, the ingestion of large amounts of microplastics mainly led to a lower food uptake and, consequently, reduced energy reserves and effects on other physiological functions. Based on the evaluated data, the lowest microplastic concentrations affecting marine organisms exposed via water are much higher than levels measured in marine water. In lugworms exposed via sediment, effects were observed at microplastic levels that were higher than those in subtidal sediments but in the same range as maximum levels in beach sediments. Hydrophobic contaminants are enriched on microplastics, but the available experimental results and modelling approaches indicate that the transfer of sorbed pollutants by microplastics is not likely to contribute significantly to bioaccumulation of these pollutants. Prior to being able to comprehensively assess possible environmental risks caused by microplastics a number of knowledge gaps need to be filled. However, in view of the persistence of microplastics in the environment, the high concentrations measured at some environmental sites and the prospective of strongly increasing concentrations, the release of plastics into the environment should be reduced in a broad and global effort regardless of a proof of an environmental risk. Electronic supplementary material The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s12302-015-0069-y) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorised users.
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              Microplastics in the Terrestrial Ecosystem: Implications for Lumbricus terrestris (Oligochaeta, Lumbricidae).

              Plastic debris is widespread in the environment, but information on the effects of microplastics on terrestrial fauna is completely lacking. Here, we studied the survival and fitness of the earthworm Lumbricus terrestris (Oligochaeta, Lumbricidae) exposed to microplastics (Polyethylene, <150 μm) in litter at concentrations of 7, 28, 45, and 60% dry weight, percentages that, after bioturbation, translate to 0.2 to 1.2% in bulk soil. Mortality after 60 days was higher at 28, 45, and 60% of microplastics in the litter than at 7% w/w and in the control (0%). Growth rate was significantly reduced at 28, 45, and 60% w/w microplastics, compared to the 7% and control treatments. Due to the digestion of ingested organic matter, microplastic was concentrated in cast, especially at the lowest dose (i.e., 7% in litter) because that dose had the highest proportion of digestible organic matter. Whereas 50 percent of the microplastics had a size of <50 μm in the original litter, 90 percent of the microplastics in the casts was <50 μm in all treatments, which suggests size-selective egestion by the earthworms. These concentration-transport and size-selection mechanisms may have important implications for fate and risk of microplastic in terrestrial ecosystems.
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                Author and article information

                Contributors
                Journal
                Front Microbiol
                Front Microbiol
                Front. Microbiol.
                Frontiers in Microbiology
                Frontiers Media S.A.
                1664-302X
                26 April 2018
                2018
                : 9
                Affiliations
                [1] 1Department of Biosystems Engineering & Soil Science, The University of Tennessee, Knoxville , Knoxville, TN, United States
                [2] 2Department of Horticulture, Botany and Gardening, School of Agrifood and Forestry Science and Engineering, University of Lleida , Lleida, Spain
                Author notes

                Edited by: Paolina Garbeva, Netherlands Institute of Ecology (NIOO-KNAW), Netherlands

                Reviewed by: Richard Allen White III, RAW Molecular Systems (RMS) LLC, United States; Jim He, University of Chinese Academy of Sciences (UCAS), China; Esperanza Huerta Lwanga, El Colegio de la Frontera Sur, Mexico

                *Correspondence: Jennifer M. DeBruyn, jdebruyn@ 123456utk.edu

                This article was submitted to Terrestrial Microbiology, a section of the journal Frontiers in Microbiology

                Article
                10.3389/fmicb.2018.00819
                5932902
                29755440
                c872650c-af27-49e6-a43a-563c6ecd5f67
                Copyright © 2018 Bandopadhyay, Martin-Closas, Pelacho and DeBruyn.

                This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

                Page count
                Figures: 1, Tables: 0, Equations: 0, References: 84, Pages: 7, Words: 0
                Funding
                Funded by: U.S. Department of Agriculture 10.13039/100000199
                Award ID: 2014-51181-22382
                Funded by: Ministerio de Ciencia y Tecnología 10.13039/501100006280
                Award ID: AGL2008-03733
                Categories
                Microbiology
                Mini Review

                Microbiology & Virology
                biodegradable plastic,plastic mulch,polyethylene,specialty crops,soil microbiology,soil microclimate,soil biogeochemistry,soil health

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