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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2022

Microplastic exposure across trophic levels: effects on the host-microbiota of freshwater organisms

Varg, Javier Edo; Outomuro, David; Kunce, Warren; Kuehrer, Lukas; Svanback, Richard; Johansson, Frank


Background Microplastics are a pervasive pollutant widespread in the sea and freshwater from anthropogenic sources, and together with the presence of pesticides, they can have physical and chemical effects on aquatic organisms and on their microbiota. Few studies have explored the combined effects of microplastics and pesticides on the host-microbiome, and more importantly, the effects across multiple trophic levels. In this work, we studied the effects of exposure to microplastics and the pesticide deltamethrin on the diversity and abundance of the host-microbiome across a three-level food chain: daphnids-damselfly-dragonflies. Daphnids were the only organism exposed to 1 mu m microplastic beads, and they were fed to damselfly larvae. Those damselfly larvae were exposed to deltamethrin and then fed to the dragonfly larvae. The microbiotas of the daphnids, damselflies, and dragonflies were analyzed. Results Exposure to microplastics and deltamethrin had a direct effect on the microbiome of the species exposed to these pollutants. An indirect effect was also found since exposure to the pollutants at lower trophic levels showed carry over effects on the diversity and abundance of the microbiome on higher trophic levels, even though the organisms at these levels where not directly exposed to the pollutants. Moreover, the exposure to deltamethrin on the damselflies negatively affected their survival rate in the presence of the dragonfly predator, but no such effects were found on damselflies fed with daphnids that had been exposed to microplastics. Conclusions Our study highlights the importance of evaluating ecotoxicological effects at the community level. Importantly, the indirect exposure to microplastics and pesticides through diet can potentially have bottom-up effects on the trophic webs.


Anthropogenic stress; Dragonflies; Damselflies; Daphnia; Pesticide; Deltamethrin; Ecotoxicology

Published in

Environmental Microbiome
2022, Volume: 17, number: 1, article number: 36
Publisher: BMC

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      Environmental Sciences

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