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Research trends of microplastics in the soil environment: Comprehensive screening of effects

Abstract

We collated and synthesized previous studies that reported the impacts of microplastics on soil parameters. The data were classified and integrated to screen for the proportion of significant effects, then we suggest several directions to alleviate the current data limitation in future experiments. We compiled 106 datasets capturing significant effects, which were analyzed in detail. We found that polyethylene and pellets (or powders) were the most frequently used microplastic composition and shape for soil experiments. The significant effects mainly occurred in broad size ranges (0.1–1 mm) at test concentrations of 0.1%–10% based on soil dry weight. Polyvinyl chloride and film induced significant effects at lower concentrations compared to other compositions and shapes, respectively. We adopted a species sensitivity distribution (SSD) and soil property effect distribution (SPED) method using available data from soil biota, and for soil properties and enzymes deemed relevant for microplastic management. The predicted-no-effect-concentration (PNEC)-like values needed to protect 95% of soil biota and soil properties was estimated to be between 520 and 655 mg kg−1. This study was the first to screen microplastic levels with a view toward protecting the soil system. Our results should be regularly updated (e.g., quarterly) with additional data as they become available.

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Acknowledgments

This work was supported by a post-doctoral grant from the National Research Foundation of Korea funded by the Ministry of Science, ICT, and Future Planning (2019R1A6A3A03031386). MCR acknowledges support from an ERC Advanced Grant (grant no. 694368). Open Access funding enabled and organized by Projekt DEAL.

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Correspondence to Shin Woong Kim.

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Highlights

• We collated and synthesized previous studies reporting on impacts of microplastics in soils.

• We found the most frequently used composition, shapes, size, and concentration.

• Species sensitivity distribution (SSD) method was used to screen the significant effects.

• We suggested special considerations are necessary to manage microplastics in soils.

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Kim, S.W., Rillig, M.C. Research trends of microplastics in the soil environment: Comprehensive screening of effects. Soil Ecol. Lett. 4, 109–118 (2022). https://doi.org/10.1007/s42832-021-0077-3

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Keywords

  • Significant effect
  • Species sensitivity distribution
  • Soil
  • Soil properties