Low-density polyethylene microplastics alter chemical properties and microbial communities in agricultural soil

Kumuduni Niroshika Palansooriya, Mee Kyung Sang, Ali El-Naggar, Liang Shi, Scott X. Chang, Jwakyung Sung, Wei Zhang, Yong Sik Ok

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


Microplastic (MP) pollution in agricultural soils, resulting from the use of plastic mulch, compost, and sewage sludge, jeopardizes the soil microbial populations. However, the effects of MPs on soil chemical properties and microbial communities remain largely unknown. Here, we investigated the effects of different concentration levels (0, 0.1, 1, 3, 5, and 7%; w:w) of low-density polyethylene (LDPE) MPs on the chemical properties and bacterial communities of agricultural soil in an incubation study. The addition of LDPE MPs did not drastically change soil pH (ranging from 8.22 to 8.42). Electrical conductivity increased significantly when the LDPE MP concentrations were between 1 and 7%, whereas the total exchangeable cations (Na+, K+, Mg2+, and Ca2+) decreased significantly at higher LDPE MP concentrations (3–7%). The highest available phosphorus content (2.13 mg kg−1) was observed in 0.1% LDPE MP. Bacterial richness (Chao1 and Ace indices) was the lowest at 0.1% LDPE MP, and diversity indices (Shannon and Invsimpson) were higher at 0 and 1% LDPE MP than at other concentrations. The effect of LDPE MP concentrations on bacterial phyla remained unchanged, but the bacterial abundance varied. The relative abundance of Proteobacteria (25.8–33.0%) was the highest in all treatments. The abundance of Acidobacteria (15.8–17.2%) was also high, particularly in the 0, 0.1, and 1% LDPE MPs. With the increase in LDPE MP concentration, the abundance of Actinobacteria gradually increased from 7.80 to 31.8%. Our findings suggest that different MP concentration levels considerably alter soil chemical properties and microbial composition, which may potentially change the ecological functions of soil ecosystems.

Original languageEnglish
Article number16276
JournalScientific reports
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2023 Dec

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023, Springer Nature Limited.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


Dive into the research topics of 'Low-density polyethylene microplastics alter chemical properties and microbial communities in agricultural soil'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this