About the project

The focus of our project lies on:

• the occurence of microplastic in dams and reservoirs in NRW and Saxony
• the growth of biofilms on plastic and the sedimentation of those particles
• the uptake and effects of microplastic in aquatic organisms and communities in the field and in model ecosystems

Algae and bacteria are cultivated on different plastic types
© R.Jongsma
The effects of microplastics on zebramussles are tested in the laboratory
© D. Michler

Occurrence of microplastics

The partners of the joint project MikroPlaTaS characterize microplastics in water, sediment and biofims. The samples are chemically and biologically analyzed and examined for microplastics. The researchers use sediment traps at the selected sites to determine how much suspended matter is deposited at different times of the year and whether microplastic particles are present. In addition, we look at the ways in which it is removed from the water column and therefore prevented from being transported further towards the sea.

Importance of biofilms

Growing biofilms are considered to be of particular importance for the transport and sedimentation of microplastics. In laboratory experiments, the research team examines the deposition of overgrown microplastics under different environmental conditions: In light, in darkness and with or without oxygen. Further, the composition of these biofilms as well as their food quality for aquatic organisms are also investigated.

Environmental effects of microplastics

Finally, the effects of different plastic particles on the communities in the plankton and sediment of the waters will be investigated. The experiments range from small laboratory vessels with individual key species such as water fleas, nematodes and snails to artificial ponds with complex communities, the mesocosms.

Synthesis of the scientific results

From our results, we can derive proposals for future measures and risk assessments together with partners in the field to develop practical recommendations.

Sediment cores are sampled from the Lippe near Hamm for analysis
© WWU
The effects of microplastic on aquatic ecosystems are tested in artificial ponds
© L. Kruckenfellner

Subprojects (AP) in detail:

  • AP 1: Survey Plastics and Meio-/Microfauna in Dams and Reservoirs

    Contact

    PD Dr. Katrin Wendt-Potthoff

    UFZ, Department Seenforschung, Brückstraße 3a, 39114 Magdeburg

    E-Mail: katrin.wendt-potthoff@ufz.de

    Project Partner

    University of Münster, University of Bielefeld

    Abstract

    The aim of the project is to estimate the level of pollution with microplastics in dammed waters, to identify the relevant polymers and to determine the typical macro- and meiofauna. In order to reach this aim the team will analyze three domestic-water dams in Sachsen (Bautzen, Quitzdorf, Malter) as well as the dammed river Ems, the Lippe and the former sewage farm in Münster in Nordrhein-Westfalen.

    Duration

    01.01.2018 - 31.12.2020

    Reference Number

    02WPL1448A

  • AP 2: In situ-experiments to Sedimentation rates and Colonization

    Contact

    PD Dr. Katrin Wendt-Potthoff

    UFZ, Department Seenforschung, Brückstraße 3a, 39114 Magdeburg

    E-Mail: katrin.wendt-potthoff@ufz.de

    Project Partner

    University of Münster, University of Bielefeld

    Abstract

    The project is aimed at determining the outdoor sedimentation level over the course of the year with regard to the total mass and the amount of microplastics. In order to do this, sediment traps will be set up at least at the deepest places of the water bodies. The data collected by these traps will be analyzed every month with respect to the total mass, plastics and organisms of the meiofauna. Finally, a relation will be established between the load of plastic in the water column, the total level of sedimentation, and the level of plastic sedimentation.

    Duration

    01.01.2018 - 31.12.2020

    Reference Number

    02WPL1448B

  • AP 3: Characterization of Biofilms on different Polymers

    Contact

    Prof. Dr. Bodo Philipp

    Universität Münster, Institut für Molekulare Mikrobiologie und Biotechnologie, Corrensstraße 3, 48149 Münster

    E-Mail: bodo.philipp@uni-muenster.de

    Project Partner

    UFZ, University of Potsdam, University of Bielefeld

    Abstract

    The goal of this work package is analyzing microbial communities on plastic particles regarding their taxonomy and function. In particular, it will be investigated whether there is a characteristic microflora on plastic particles and whether this differs for different types of plastic material. A strain collection will be generated for creating synthetic biofilm communities that will be used to investigate hypotheses about plastic particle colonization. The synthetic biofilms will also be tested in work packages 4, 5 and 6 regarding their effects on higher trophic levels. Furthermore, the most important model organisms identified in this project will be used for a more detailed analysis of the mechanisms involved in biofilm formation on plastic particles.

    Duration

    01.01.2018 - 31.12.2020

    Reference Number

    02WPL1448C

  • AP 4: Influence of Biofilm colonization, Light and Redox pocesses on Microplastic sedimentation

    Contact

    PD Dr. Katrin Wendt-Potthoff

    UFZ, Department Seenforschung, Brückstraße 3a, 39114 Magdeburg

    E-Mail: katrin.wendt-potthoff@ufz.de

    Project Partner

    University of Münster, University of Bielefeld

    Abstract

    By performing experiments under controlled conditions it shall be determined in which way light and redox gradients (concentration of O2 and iron) affect the sedimentation of plastic particles, either directly or indirectly by regulating the bacterial population. The impact of these factors will be studied in order to simulate the transition from a pelagic to a benthic habitat. It has to be clarified to what extent the sinking behaviour of plastic particles can be regulated by light and darkness and by oxic and anoxic conditions either in themselves or by the change from one to the other.

    Duration

    01.01.2018 - 31.12.2020

    Reference Number

    02WPL1448D

  • AP 5: Direct effect of Plastic particles on Invertebrates

    Contact

    Prof. Dr. Walter Traunspurger

    Universität Bielefeld, Abteilung Tierökologie, Konsequenz 45, 33615 Bielefeld

    E-Mail: traunspurger@uni-bielefeld.de

    Project Partner

    Universität Münster, Universität Potsdam, Ecossa, Mesocosm GmbH

    Abstract

    Respiration- and Growth-rates of biofilms on various polymers will be investigated under aerobe and anaerobe conditions, as well as in light-exposed and non-exposed microcosms. To gain reproducible biofilms on polymers for usage in sedimentation- (AP2) and grazing-assays (AP6), pre-experiments will be conducted under varying environmental conditions with isolated bacterial strains and indigenous flora from the respective sampling spots.

    Effects of ingested microplastics are going to be assessed in single-species laboratory experiments with pelagic and benthic organisms, and by more complex model-ecosystems respectively: Initially, ingestion rates of relevant cultivated zooplanktonic organisms (Crustacea: Daphnia magna, Rotatoria: Brachionus calyciflorus, Keratella cochlearis), meiobenthic organisms (Nematoda: Cae- norhabditis elegans; Pristionchus pacificus) and macrobenthic organisms (Crustacea: Gammarus roeselii, Gastropoda: Radix balthica) on defined plastic particles with various sizes and conditions (as identified in TP1) will be assessed. For selected organisms, ingested particles should be located and quantified by use of RAMAN-spectroscopy. The impacts of applied microplastic particles on relevant parameters (e.g. reproduction, population growth, development, life-span, activity) will be examined in chronic toxicity tests and linked to the previously defined ingestion rates. Following, more realistic and complex exposure scenarios will be simulated by use of natural and cultivated communities respectively in predator-prey-systems (e.g. with predatory copepods) or complex model-ecosystems (lentic and lotic). Within these assays, uptake and effects, in terms of alterations in the abundance and composition of the respective examined meio- and macrobenthic communities, will be assessed.

    Duration

    01.01.2018 - 31.12.2020

    Reference Number

    02WPL1448E

  • AP 6: Influence of Plastics on Food quality of Biofilm for Meio- and Macro-Grazer

    Contact

    Dr. Friederike Gabel

    Universität Münster, Institut für Landschaftsökologie, Heisenbergstraße 2, 48149 Münster

    E-Mail: gabelf@ uni-muenster.de

    Project Partner

    University of Potsdam, University of Bielefeld, UFZ

    Abstract

    The aim of this AP is to identify indirect effects of microplasty on meio and macrofauna organisms by influencing the nutritional basis. Biofilms (especially bacteria, fungi, protozoa) form an important food basis for meio and macrofauna in waters. The quality of these biofilms can therefore have a significant influence on the composition and vitality of the organisms grazing them. For Grazing experiments, macro invertebrates are offered different overgrown plastic strips for grazing. Ingestion and excretion rates, growth and, in the case of snails, the reproduction of organisms are investigated. Ingestion and excretion rates, growth and, in the case of snails, the reproduction of organisms are investigated.

    Duration

    01.01.2018 - 31.12.2020

    Reference Number

    02WPL1448F

  • AP 7: Coordination, Public relations, Knowledge transfer

    Contact

    Dr. Friederike Gabel

    Universität Münster, Institut für Landschaftsökologie, Heisenbergstraße 2, 48149 Münster

    E-Mail: gabelf@ uni-muenster.de

    PD Dr. Katrin Wendt-Potthoff

    UFZ, Department Seenforschung, Brückstraße 3a, 39114 Magdeburg

    E-Mail: katrin.wendt-potthoff@ufz.de

    Project Partner

    University of Potsdam, University of Bielefeld, Ecossa, Mesocosm GmbH

    Abstract

    The aim is to communicate project results to specific target groups both within the consortium and to the general public (children, students, authorities and scientists). The practical partners (State Dam Administration of the Free State of Saxony, Lower Water and Landscape Authority of the City of Hamm, Nature and Environmental Protection Academy NRW) have an important role to play here. It is expected that the multiplier effect of the addressed target groups will make the project results and the topic of plastics more present in the environment and that this sensitisation will create a broader acceptance for the recommendations for action that arise from the project as a synthesis product.