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Microbial carrying capacity and carbon biomass of plastic marine debris
Zhao, S.; Zettler, E.R.; Amaral-Zettler, L.A.; Mincer, T.J. (2021). Microbial carrying capacity and carbon biomass of plastic marine debris. ISME J. 15: 67-77.
In: The ISME Journal: Multidisciplinary Journal of Microbial Ecology. Nature Publishing Group: London. ISSN 1751-7362; e-ISSN 1751-7370, meer
Peer reviewed article  

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  • Zhao, S.
  • Zettler, E.R., meer
  • Amaral-Zettler, L.A., meer
  • Mincer, T.J.

    Trillions of plastic debris fragments are floating at sea, presenting a substantial surface area for microbial colonization. Numerous cultivation-independent surveys have characterized plastic-associated microbial biofilms, however, quantitative studies addressing microbial carbon biomass are lacking. Our confocal laser scanning microscopy data show that early biofilm development on polyethylene, polypropylene, polystyrene, and glass substrates displayed variable cell size, abundance, and carbon biomass, whereas these parameters stabilized in mature biofilms. Unexpectedly, plastic substrates presented lower volume proportions of photosynthetic cells after 8 weeks, compared to glass. Early biofilms displayed the highest proportions of diatoms, which could influence the vertical transport of plastic debris. In total, conservative estimates suggest 2.1 × 1021 to 3.4 × 1021 cells, corresponding to about 1% of the microbial cells in the ocean surface microlayer (1.5 × 103 to 1.1 × 104 tons of carbon biomass), inhabit plastic debris globally. As an unnatural addition to sea surface waters, the large quantity of cells and biomass carried by plastic debris has the potential to impact biodiversity, autochthonous ecological functions, and biogeochemical cycles within the ocean.

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