Microplastic transport in soil by earthworms
Matthias C. Rillig, Lisa Ziersch & Stefan Hempel
Despite great general benefits derived from plastic use, accumulation of plastic material in ecosystems, and especially microplastic, is becoming an increasing environmental concern. Microplastic has been extensively studied in aquatic environments, with very few studies focusing on soils. We here tested the idea that microplastic particles (polyethylene beads) could be transported from the soil surface down the soil profile via earthworms. We used Lumbricus terrestris L., an anecic earthworm species, in a factorial greenhouse experiment with four different microplastic sizes. Presence of earthworms greatly increased the presence of microplastic particles at depth (we examined 3 soil layers, each 3.5 cm deep), with smaller PE microbeads having been transported downward to a greater extent.