Microplastic is an abundant and distinct microbial habitat in an urban river

Recent research has documented microplastic particles (< 5 mm in diameter) in ocean habitats worldwide and in the Laurentian Great Lakes. Microplastic interacts with biota, including microorganisms, in these habitats, raising concerns about its ecological effects. Rivers may transport microplastic to marine habitats and the Great Lakes, but data on microplastic in rivers is limited. In a highly urbanized river in Chicago, Illinois, USA, we measured concentrations of microplastic that met or exceeded those measured in oceans and the Great Lakes, and we demonstrated that wastewater treatment plant effluent was a point source of microplastic. Results from high-throughput sequencing showed that bacterial assemblages colonizing microplastic within the river were less diverse and were significantly different in taxonomic composition compared to those from the water column and suspended organic matter. Several taxa that include plastic decomposing organisms and pathogens were more abundant on microplastic. These results demonstrate that microplastic in rivers are a distinct microbial habitat and may be a novel vector for the downstream transport of unique bacterial assemblages. In addition, this study suggests that urban rivers are an overlooked and potentially significant component of the global microplastic life cycle.



Work Title Microplastic is an abundant and distinct microbial habitat in an urban river
Open Access
  1. Amanda McCormick
  2. Timothy J. Hoellein
  3. Sherri Mason
  4. Joseph Schluep
  5. John J. Kelly
License In Copyright (Rights Reserved)
Work Type Article
  1. Environmental Science & Technology
Publication Date January 1, 2014
Publisher Identifier (DOI)
  1. https://doi.org/10.1021/es503610r
Deposited November 17, 2021




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Work History

Version 1

  • Created
  • Added McCormick_et_al._2014._Env._Sci_Tech..pdf
  • Added Creator Amanda McCormick
  • Added Creator Timothy J. Hoellein
  • Added Creator Sherri Mason
  • Added Creator Joseph Schluep
  • Added Creator John J. Kelly
  • Published
  • Updated
  • Updated