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Faculty for Biology, Chemistry, and Earth Sciences

Department of Ecological Modelling - Prof. Dr. Michael Hauhs

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Piehl, S; Leibner, A; Löder, MGJ; Dris, R; Bogner, C; Laforsch, C: Identification and quantification of macro-and microplastics on an agricultural farmland, Scientific Reports, 8(1), 17950 (2018), doi:10.1038/s41598-018-36172-y
Abstract:
Microplastic contamination of aquatic ecosystems is a high priority research topic, whereas the issue on terrestrial ecosystems has been widely neglected. At the same time, terrestrial ecosystems under human influence, such as agroecosystems, are likely to be contaminated by plastic debris. However, the extent of this contamination has not been determined at present. Via Fourier transform infrared (FTIR) analysis, we quantified for the first time the macro- and microplastic contamination on an agricultural farmland in southeast Germany. We found 206 macroplastic pieces per hectare and 0.34 ± 0.36 microplastic particles per kilogram dry weight of soil. In general, polyethylene was the most common polymer type, followed by polystyrene and polypropylene. Films and fragments were the dominating categories found for microplastics, whereas predominantly films were found for macroplastics. Since we intentionally chose a study site where microplastic-containing fertilizers and agricultural plastic applications were never used, our findings report on plastic contamination on a site which only receives conventional agricultural treatment. However, the contamination is probably higher in areas where agricultural plastic applications, like greenhouses, mulch, or silage films, or plastic-containing fertilizers (sewage sludge, biowaste composts) are applied. Hence, further research on the extent of this contamination is needed with special regard to different cultivation practices.
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