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Effects of microplastic on the population dynamics of a marine copepod: insights from a laboratory experiment and a mechanistic model
Everaert, G.; Vlaeminck, K.; Vandegehuchte, M.B.; Janssen, C.R. (2022). Effects of microplastic on the population dynamics of a marine copepod: insights from a laboratory experiment and a mechanistic model. Environ. Toxicol. Chem. 41(7): 1663-1674.
In: Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry. Setac Press: New York. ISSN 0730-7268; e-ISSN 1552-8618
Peer reviewed article  

Available in  Authors 

Author keywords
    Polyethylene, population effects, copepod, marine environment

Authors  Top 
  • Everaert, G.
  • Vlaeminck, K.
  • Vandegehuchte, M.B.
  • Janssen, C.R., more

    Microplastic is ubiquitously and persistently present in the marine environment, but knowledge of its population-level effects is limited. In this study, to quantify the potential theoretical population effect of microplastic a two-step approach was followed. First, the impact of microplastic (polyethylene, 0.995 g cm-3, diameter 10-45 µm) on the filtration rate of the pelagic copepod Temora longicornis was investigated under laboratory conditions. It was found that the filtration rate decreased at increasing microplastic concentrations and followed a concentration-response relationship, but at microplastic concentrations below 100 particles L-1 the filtration rate was not affected. From the concentration-response relationship between the microplastic concentrations and the individual filtration rate a median effect concentration of the individual filtration rate (48h-EC50) of 1956 ± 311 particles L-1 was found. In a second step, the dynamics of a T. longicornis population were simulated for realistic environmental conditions, and the effects of microplastics on the population density equilibrium were assessed. The empirical filtration rate data were incorporated in an individual-based model implementation of the dynamic energy budget theory to deduct potential theoretical population level effects. The yearly averaged concentration at which the population equilibrium density would decrease by 50% was 593 ± 376 particles L-1. The theoretical effect concentrations at population level were a fourfold lower than effect concentrations at individual level. However, the theoretical effect concentrations at population level remain three to five orders of magnitude higher than ambient microplastic concentrations. Since the present experiment was short-term laboratory-based and the results were only indirectly validated with field data, the in situ implications of microplastic pollution for the dynamics of zooplankton field populations remains to be further investigated.

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