EGU General Assembly 2020
© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

What do we know about how the terrestrial multicellular soil fauna reacts to microplastic?

Frederick Büks, Loes van Schaik, and Martin Kaupenjohann
Frederick Büks et al.
  • Chair of Soil Science, Technische Universität Berlin, Germany (

The ubiquitous accumulation of microplastic particles across all global ecosystems comes along with the uptake into soil food webs. In this work, we evaluated studies on passive translocation, active ingestion, bioaccumulation and adverse effects within the phylogenetic tree of multicellular soil faunal life. The representativity of these studies for natural soil ecosystems was assessed using data on the type of plastic, shape, composition, concentration and time of exposure.

Available studies cover a wide range of soil organisms, with emphasis on earthworms, nematodes, springtails, beetles and lugworms, each focused on well known model organisms. Most of the studies applied microplastic concentrations similar to amounts in slightly to very heavily polluted soils. In many cases, however, polystyrene microspheres have been used, a combination of plastic type and shape, that is easily available, but do not represent the main plastic input into soil ecosystems. In turn, microplastic fibres are strongly underrepresented compared to their high abundance within contaminated soils. Further properties of plastic such as aging, coating and additives were insufficiently documented. Despite of these limitations, there is a recurring pattern of active intake followed by a population shift within the gut microbiome and adverse effects on motility, growth, metabolism, reproduction and mortality in various combinations, especially at high concentrations and small particle sizes.

For future experiments, we recommend a modus operandi that takes into account the type, shape, grade of aging and specific concentrations of microplastic fractions in natural and contaminated soils as well as long-term incubation within soil mesocosms.

How to cite: Büks, F., van Schaik, L., and Kaupenjohann, M.: What do we know about how the terrestrial multicellular soil fauna reacts to microplastic?, EGU General Assembly 2020, Online, 4–8 May 2020, EGU2020-18474,, 2020

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Presentation version 1 – uploaded on 01 May 2020
  • CC1: Comment on EGU2020-18474, Alexandra FOETISCH, 05 May 2020

    Dear Frederick Büks,


    Thank you for this very interesting presentation. I have 1 question:

    Does the concentration of plastic they usually use in these experiments correspond to what has been found in the environment?



    • AC1: Reply to CC1, Frederick Büks, 05 May 2020

      Hey, Alexandra.

      Only half of the experiments applied plastic concentrations within the "natural" range, which is approximately

      • ~1 mg/kg for agricultures with plastic mulching practiced with responsibility or sewage sludge application,
      • ~100 mg/kg in semisubhydric soils like mangroves, mudflats, beaches,
      • ~1000 mg/kg in vicinity to frequently used streets and
      • ~1000 mg/kg and above at highly contaminated sites like industrial areas or strongly littered sites.

      I hope, that is helpfull for you. We will publish a review about global plastic concentrations soon, so let me know if you need more detailed information.

      Best regards,



      • CC2: Reply to AC1, Alexandra FOETISCH, 05 May 2020

        Okay, nice to know! Thanks again