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https://doi.org/10.5194/soil-2020-50
© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
https://doi.org/10.5194/soil-2020-50
© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

  01 Sep 2020

01 Sep 2020

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This preprint is currently under review for the journal SOIL.

Global concentrations of microplastic in soils, a review

Frederick Büks and Martin Kaupenjohann Frederick Büks and Martin Kaupenjohann
  • Chair of Soil Science, Dept. of Ecology, Technische Universität Berlin, 10587 Berlin, Germany

Abstract. Worldwide, microplastic (MP) has been commonly recognized as a threat for soil ecosystems. Terrestrial soils are widely contaminated by MP due to the application of sewage sludge and wastewater, plastic mulching, littering, the input of tire wear from roads and atmospheric deposition. Within the last decade, an increasing number of individual studies focused on item counts and masses of MP in different global soil environments.

We reviewed these studies to achieve a representative picture of common degrees of contamination. The majority of the prospected agricultural and horticultural sites was exposed to sewage sludge and mulching film application and showed concentrations of < 13 000 items kg−1 dry soil and 4.5 mg kg−1 dry soil. Microplastic concentrations in soils in the vicinity to municipal areas were thereby 10 times larger compared to rural sites. The measurement of masses was generally underrepresented compared to item numbers, and mass data were often generated from microscopic analyses by use of shape-to-mass models instead of direct measurement. Extreme values such as on industrial sites exceed the common concentrations by 2 to 4 orders of magnitude, which might be attributed not only to the land use, but also to the applied methods of measurement. Campaigns with focus on other entry pathways like composts, road dust runoff and littering or land uses like grassland, forest, fallow and wilderness as well as industrial sites and landfills were underrepresented or nonexistent. Background loads such as atmospheric deposition were often not excluded from the measurements and, thus, the studies might overestimate the contribution of the analyzed entry pathway to the total load. Other studies focused on light density MP e.g. from mulching films and therefore underestimated the amount of soil MP.

Despite these limitations, the data give an impression on the spectrum of global MP concentrations and are a good basis for experiments examining the effects of MP on exposed soils. Based on the collected data, we identified problems of past studies and recommend that future experimentation take into account standardized methods of extraction and quantification, a proper characterization of the sampling sites and their history as well as the exploration of yet underrepresented entry pathways and land uses.

Frederick Büks and Martin Kaupenjohann

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Frederick Büks and Martin Kaupenjohann

Frederick Büks and Martin Kaupenjohann

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Short summary
Laboratory experiments that assess microplastic impact on the terrestrial environment require information on common soil MP concentrations. We reviewed item numbers and mass concentrations recorded in 23 studies with in total 223 sampling sites with respect to the underlying entry pathways, land uses and vicinities. Common values amount of up to 13 000 items kg−1 and 4.5 mg kg−1 dry soil. Based on the collected data, we identified problems of past field studies.
Laboratory experiments that assess microplastic impact on the terrestrial environment require...
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