Environmental Chemistry Environmental Chemistry Society
Environmental problems - Chemical approaches
REVIEW

Marine microplastic-associated biofilms – a review

Sonja Oberbeckmann A C , Martin G. J. Löder B and Matthias Labrenz A
+ Author Affiliations
- Author Affiliations

A Leibniz Institute for Baltic Sea Research Warnemünde (IOW), Biological Oceanography, Seestrasse 15, D-18119 Rostock-Warnemünde, Germany.

B Animal Ecology I, University of Bayreuth, Universitätsstraße 30, D-95440 Bayreuth, Germany.

C Corresponding author. Email: sonja.oberbeckmann@io-warnemuende.de




Sonja Oberbeckmann is a microbiologist exploring anthropogenic influences on marine microbial communities. She graduated in 2011 from Jacobs University Bremen, Germany. Her thesis was on the effect of climate change on potentially pathogenic Vibrio populations in the German Bight, carried out at the Alfred Wegener Institute–Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research, Helgoland, Germany. Since then, Sonja has devoted her time to the issue of microplastics in marine waters and the interaction between these particles and microorganisms. After spending over 2 years abroad as a postdoctoral fellow (University Hull and Lincoln, UK, and University Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI, USA), she returned to Germany to coordinate the MikrOMIK project at the Leibniz Institute for Baltic Sea Research Warnemünde.



Martin Löder is a postdoctoral fellow at the chair of Animal Ecology I at the University of Bayreuth, Germany. After studying environmental engineering, he obtained a Ph.D. in biology from Jacobs University Bremen, Germany, in 2010. During his doctoral research at the Alfred Wegener Institute–Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research, Helgoland, Germany, he investigated the role of microzooplankton grazers in the marine food web. Since 2011 he has focussed on microplastic research, and is one of the experts in microplastic sampling in aquatic systems, sample extraction, and purification and identification of microplastics with spectroscopic techniques (Fourier-transform (FT)IR, Raman). After 3 years of research and methodological development, he is now involved in several national projects on the detection and quantification of microplastics in marine and freshwater ecosystems as well as the ecological implications of microplastics.



Matthias Labrenz completed his Ph.D. thesis at the Institute for General Microbiology, Kiel, Germany. As postdoctoral research associate, he stayed at the Department of Geology and Geophysics, University of Wisconsin, Madison, WI, USA, as well as at the German Research Centre for Biotechnology, Braunschweig. Since 2003, he has been a senior scientist at the Leibniz Institute for Baltic Sea Research Warnemünde (IOW), Biological Oceanography Section, and received the Venia legendi in microbiology at the University of Rostock, Germany, in 2009. Currently, he is the head of the ‘Environmental Microbiology’ working group within the Biological Oceanography section of the IOW. The group focuses on the importance and function of microorganisms or microbial communities in aquatic ecosystems, especially in the Baltic Sea.

Environmental Chemistry 12(5) 551-562 https://doi.org/10.1071/EN15069
Submitted: 10 October 2014  Accepted: 7 July 2015   Published: 17 September 2015

Environmental context. Marine microbial communities, which play a crucial role in all biogeochemical processes in the oceans, could be affected by microplastic pollution. Research is necessary to understand the interactions between marine microbial communities and microplastics, and to explore the potential for microplastics to serve as transport systems for pathogenic microorganisms. Our review summarises first insights into these topics and discusses gaps in our current knowledge.

Abstract. The accumulation of plastic in the marine environment is a long-known issue, but the potential relevance of this pollution for the ocean has been recognised only recently. Within this context, microplastic fragments (<5 mm) represent an emerging topic. Owing to their small size, they are readily ingested by marine wildlife and can accumulate in the food web, along with associated toxins and microorganisms colonising the plastic. We are starting to understand that plastic biofilms are diverse and are, comparably with non-plastic biofilms, driven by a complex network of influences, mainly spatial and seasonal factors, but also polymer type, texture and size of the substratum. Within this context, we should raise the question about the potential of plastic particles to serve as vectors for harmful microorganisms. The main focus of the review is the discussion of first insights and research gaps related to microplastic-associated microbial biofilm communities.

Additional keywords: biofilm communities, marine plastic pollution, microorganisms, microplastics.


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