Effects of different sizes of polystyrene micro(nano)plastics on soil microbial communities

Kwanyoung Ko, Haegeun Chung, Woong Kim, Min Ji Kim

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Micro(nano)plastic (MNP) pollution in soil environments is a major concern, but the effects of different sizes of MNPs on soil microbial communities, which are crucial in nutrient cycling, has not been well investigated. In this study, we aimed to determine the effects of polystyrene (PS) MNPs of different sizes (0.05-, 0.5-, and 5-μm) on soil microbial activity and community composition. Changes in inorganic N concentration, microbial biomass, and extracellular enzyme activities were determined in soils treated with 100 and 1000 μg PS MNPs g−1 soil during a 40-d incubation experiment. Soil microbial biomass was significantly lowered when soils were treated with 0.5- or 5-μm MNPs at 100 and 1000 μg PS MNPs g−1 soil. NH4+ concentration was higher in soils treated with 5-μm MNPs at 100 and 1000 μg g−1 soil than in the control soils at day 1, suggesting that MNPs inhibited the soil nitrification in short term. In contrast, extracellular enzyme activity was not altered by MNPs. The composition of microbial communities analyzed by Illumina MiSeq sequencing changed; particularly, the relative abundance of several bacteria related to N cycling, such as the genus Rhizomicrobium belonging to Alphaproteobacteria was decreased by 0.5- and 5-μm MNPs. Our study shows that the size of MNPs is an important factor that can determine their effects on soil microbial communities. Therefore, the size effects need to be considered in assessing the environmental impacts of MNPs.

Original languageEnglish
Article number100460
Publication statusPublished - 2023 Apr

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by the faculty research fund of Konkuk University in 2019.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023 Elsevier B.V.


  • Microbial biomass
  • Microplastics
  • Nanoplastics
  • Nitrification
  • Size effect
  • Soil microbial communities

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Materials Science (miscellaneous)
  • Safety, Risk, Reliability and Quality
  • Safety Research
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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