Feeding cellulose and polyester microfibres to a freshwater amphipod

Microfibres are found in the natural environment in large numbers, both from plastic and natural material. However, there has not been many studies looking at the interaction of organisms with these fibres. This ecotoxicological study is the first to compare feeding of plastic and non-plastic fibres on a consumer species, in this case the leaf-shredding detrivore Gammarus duebeni.

 

Experimental setup – exposing the amphipod Gammarus duebeni to fibres of cellulose or polyester in the absence or presence of food (Lemna minor)

Our study looked at exposure of the freshwater amphipod G. duebeni to fibres from polyester and cellulose. After 96 hours of exposure, 58.3% of amphipods exposed to cellulose, and 41.7% of those exposed to polyester had microfibers in their digestive tract.

The number of microfibres found in G. duebeni digestive tracts was higher in those exposed to microfibres in the presence of food compared to those exposed in the absence of food. The highest number of fibres were counted in the treatment “polyester fibres in presence of food”. It was also noted that a significantly higher number of microfibres was found in the midgut-hindgut (posterior) sections, compared to the foregut (anterior) sections.

No negative effect of microfibre uptake on amphipod survival was apparent after 96 hours exposure. However, amphipods are key species in the aquatic food web. This means that the rapid accumulation of microfibers in their digestive system may have wider ecological implications. Future studies should consider potential transfer of microfibres to higher trophic levels within freshwater communities.

Find the published paper: Beyond plastic microbeads – Short-term feeding of cellulose and polyester microfibers to the freshwater amphipod Gammarus duebeni

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