Publications

Microplastics occurrence and frequency in soils under different land uses on a regional scale

Corradini, Fabio; Casado, Francisco; Leiva, Vanessa; Huerta-Lwanga, Esperanza; Geissen, Violette

Summary

The growing evidence of microplastic pollution in terrestrial ecosystems reveals adverse effects of microplastics on soil biota and plant growth. However, since large scale assessments are lacking, it is possible that the laboratory based experiments conducted have assumed unrealistic microplastic concentrations in soils. In this paper we present regional scale data on the presence of microplastics in soils under different land uses in the central valley of Chile, which is characterized by urbanization, agricultural, and mining operations. We identified microplastics in soils under four different land use systems having different management intensities (crop lands, pastures, rangelands, and natural grasslands), and all somewhat prone to accumulate microplastics from different sources. We analyzed 240 soil samples from Chile's central valley, trying to identify the most probable sources of the microplastics. Our hypothesis was that microplastics were ubiquitous in the environment and that their concentration peaks follow the intensity of fertilizer use (phosphorus), soil heavy metals concentrations derived from nearby mining operations (Zn and Cu), and distance to roads and urban areas. We did find evidence of microplastic pollution in crop lands and pastures (306 ± 360 and 184 ± 266 particles kg−1, respectively), but we did not observe pollution of rangelands and natural grasslands. Distance to mining operations, roads, or urban areas did not increase the microplastic particles count. Our observations contradict the common belief that microplastics are ubiquitous in the environment and relate the pollution problem more to agricultural activities. However, our data do not provide sufficient evidence to identify the pollution source. This is the first study that reports on microplastic occurrence in soils at a broad geographical scale. For greater insight on this topic more studies that contribute monitoring data about microplastics in soils are urgently needed.