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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2022

Aquatic Biofilms-Sink or Source of Microplastics? A Critical Reflection on Current Knowledge

Kalcikova, Gabriela; Bundschuh, Mirco


The scientific understanding regarding sources, occurrence, and effects of microplastics in the aquatic environment has advanced rapidly, leaving some meaningful knowledge gaps virtually untouched. One of them is the interactions of microplastics and biofilms, microbial communities ubiquitous in aquatic ecosystems and fundamental for a range of ecosystem-level processes. It is evident that biofilms can quickly develop on the microplastic surface and consequently change particle properties and, as such, its fate and ecotoxicity. Moreover, microplastics interact with ubiquitous biofilms that are developed on any surfaces in aquatic ecosystems. Although the knowledge about these interactions is at best limited, it is expected that microplastics attach to the water-biofilm interface or penetrate the biofilm matrix. Microplastics can accumulate and ab- or adsorb to those biofilms where they are subjected to transformation processes such as fragmentation. Thus, biofilms may function as a sink. Changes in environmental conditions may, however, stress biofilms initiating their dieback and microplastic release, which could turn biofilms into a source of microplastics. We argue that the accumulation and release dynamics are a largely overlooked but potentially important piece to the puzzle that is a comprehensive understanding of microplastic fate in the environment and thus under the influence of multiple interacting factors. Environ Toxicol Chem 2021;00:1-6. (c) 2021 The Authors. Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry published by Wiley Periodicals LLC on behalf of SETAC.


Particulate stressors; Fate; Freshwaters; Periphyton; Stressors

Published in

Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry
2022, volume: 41, number: 4, pages: 838-843
Publisher: WILEY

Authors' information

Kalcikova, Gabriela
University of Ljubljana
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Aquatic Sciences and Assessment
University of Koblenz-Landau

UKÄ Subject classification

Environmental Sciences

Publication Identifiers


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