Impacts of Micro(nano)plastics on Terrestrial Plants: Germination, Growth, and Litter

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Scientists work to understand the effects of microplastics and nanoplastics on the plant life cycle and plant health. Findings show plastic particles have numerous negative impacts on normal plant growth, development, reproduction, and health, as well as soils, forests, and the health of the planet.

Abstract: Micro(nano)plastics (MNP) are pervasive in various environmental media and pose a global environmental pollution issue, particularly in terrestrial ecosystems, where they exert a significant impact on plant growth and development. This paper builds upon prior research to analyze and consolidate the effects of MNP on soil properties, seed germination, plant growth, and litter decomposition. The objective is to elucidate the environmental behavior of MNP and their mechanisms of influence on the plant life cycle. The unique physicochemical and electrical properties of MNP enable them to modify soil structure, water retention capacity, and pH. They can potentially act as “electron shuttles” or disrupt natural “electron shuttles” in litter decomposition, thereby interfering with nutrient transport and availability in the soil. Furthermore, MNP can physically obstruct nutrient and water channels within plants, impacting nutrient and water absorption. Once infiltrating plant tissues, MNP can form eco-coronas with plant proteins. Together with MNP adsorbed on the plant’s surface and within its tissues, they disrupt normal physiological processes, leading to changes in photosynthesis, biomass, cellular toxicity, genetics, nutrient uptake, and gene expression. These changes, in turn, influence seed germination and plant growth and development. As a burgeoning research field, future studies should delve deeper into various aspects of these changes, such as elucidating the pathways and mechanisms through which MNP enter plant tissues, assessing their intensity and mechanisms of toxicity on different plant species, and exploring the relationship between micro(nano)plastics and “electron shuttles”. These endeavors will contribute to establishing a more comprehensive theoretical framework for understanding the environmental behavior of MNP and their impact on plants.

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