Effects of polyethylene microplastics on the growth of Arabidopsis thaliana & Phaseolus vulgaris and their soil

(1) Monta Vista High School, Cupertino, California, (2) University of California Berkeley, Berkeley, California

Cover photo for Effects of polyethylene microplastics on the growth of <em>Arabidopsis thaliana</em> & <em>Phaseolus vulgaris</em> and their soil

As the amount of manufactured goods in the world increases, their disposal methods also come into question with many plastic products ending up in both the ocean and on land. These plastics can break down, creating microplastics that can persist for long time periods. While extensive research has been done on the effects of microplastics on marine ecosystems, less is known about the effects of different concentrations of microplastics in terrestrial ecosystems. Our study used the plants Arabidopsis thaliana and Phaseolus vulgaris to explore the effects of microplastics on plant growth and soil quality. We hypothesized that an increase in the concentration of microplastics would result in shorter plant height and root length, as well as a reduced water holding capacity (WHC) of the soil. We found that the majority of the results were not statistically significant, except for the soil’s WHC for P. vulgaris, where the 0.5 μg/L treatment was lower than the control. These findings can serve as a guide for future studies that can further explore the effect of microplastics on terrestrial ecosystems.

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