Department of Biology
Type of project
Type of project
Basic research project
01.09.2020 - 31.08.2023
Project manager at BFJemec Kokalj Anita
In recent years, microplastics pollution has become one of the major public environmental concerns expressed throughout the globe. Although terrestrial environment is a substantial source and sink of microplastics pollution, there is still a lack of comparative knowledge regarding potential sublethal effects that nano- and micro-plastics (NMPs) may have on terrestrial organisms. The main objective of this project is to investigate the impact of environmentally relevant NMPs on terrestrial invertebrates. Environmental relevance will be considered in terms of tested plastic particles, which will be derived from relevant materials commonly found in agricultural soil, and by subjecting NMPs to environmental weathering. Nano- and microplastics will be milled from plastic source materials such as for example car tyres, agricultural plastic mulch and textiles. Terrestrial organisms with different ecological roles and soil niches will be studied: the woodlice Porcellio scaber, white earthworm Enchytraeus crypticus and mealworm beetle Tenebrio molitor. They will be exposed to NMPs via soil exposure and afterwards whole-organism endpoints such as the feeding rate, growth, energy reserves and survival will be followed. The ingestion, fragmentation and retention of microplastics in the gut will be investigated using light and electron microscopy. Immune-related parameters will be followed using spectrophotometric analysis and expression of selected immune-related genes. Proteome analysis of haemolymph will also be done to complement gene expression analysis interpretation as well as to elucidate antioxidant and detoxification processes. Knowledge regarding microplastics effects on terrestrial organisms will contribute to in-depth understanding of potential hazard posed by nano- and microplastics.
THE PHASES OF THE PROJECT AND THEIR REALIZATION
The project will run within three research work packages (WP1-3) and two technical work packages (WP 4,5). The first work package will serve to provide and characterise testing NMPs. NMPs will be used in WP2 where they will be subjected to environmental aging, e.g. weathering. WP 1 and WP2 are thus designed as platforms for providing pristine and weathered NMPs and data on their characteristics. Most of the activities in WP1 and WP2 will run during the first two years. The core part of the project will be the study of the effects of NMPs exposure on organisms which will be assessed at the whole-organism, and molecular levels concerning immune and detoxification processes (WP3). Work in WP3 will be performed throughout the project starting with preliminary exposures to define sub-lethal concentrations and followed by detail analysis at the molecular level. Knowledge dissemination and communication (WP4) as well as project management (WP5) will be led by the project leader throughout the duration of the project.