Microplastic effect thresholds for freshwater benthic macroinvertebrates

P.E. Redondo Hasselerharm*, Dede Dede Falahudin, E.T.H.M. Peeters, A.A. Koelmans

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

69 Citations (Scopus)


Now that microplastics have been detected in lakes, rivers and estuaries all over the globe, evaluating their effects on biota has become an urgent research priority. This is the first study that aims at determining the effect thresholds for a battery of six freshwater benthic macroinvertebrates with different species traits, using a wide range of microplastic concentrations. Standardized 28 d single species bioassays were performed under environmentally relevant exposure conditions using polystyrene microplastics (20 - 500 µm) mixed with sediment at concentrations ranging from 0 to 40% sediment dry weight (dw). Microplastics caused no effects on the survival of Gammarus pulex, Hyalella azteca, Asellus aquaticus, Sphaerium corneum and Tubifex spp. and no effects were found on the reproduction of Lumbriculus variegatus. No significant differences in growth were found for H. azteca, A. aquaticus, S. corneum, L. variegatus and Tubifex spp. However, G. pulex showed a significant reduction in growth (EC10=1.07% sediment dw) and microplastic uptake was proportional with microplastic concentrations in sediment. These results indicate that although the risks of environmentally realistic concentrations of microplastics may be low, they still may affect the biodiversity and the functioning of aquatic communities which after all also depend on the sensitive species.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2278-2286
JournalEnvironmental Science and Technology
Issue number4
Early online date2018
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2018

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