Microbial hitch-hikers of marine plastics: the survival, persistence & ecology of microbial communities in the Plastisphere
Microbial hitch-hikers of marine plastics: the survival, persistence
& ecology of microbial communities in the Plastisphere
The aim of this project is to understand the potential for marine plastic to act as a vector for pathogenic microorganisms and genes for anti-microbial resistance, and to characterise the ability of bacterial communities to degrade plastics and plastic-associated pollutants in the environment
The Plastic vectors project is funded by the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) under the fourth round of NERC highlight topics
Our understanding of microbial colonisation of marine plastics is limited to descriptive taxonomic studies, which have highlighted the huge diversity of bacteria able to ‘hitch-hike’ on plastic debris. However, quantifying and understanding the potential role of marine plastic debris for the persistence and dispersal of potentially pathogenic microorganisms is of pressing importance and global significance. This ambitious project will characterise the range of microbial colonisation dynamics on microplastics, from their source through to delivery at ocean receptors.
By quantifying the processes of pathogen colonisation and dispersal, together with microbial biodegradation of plastic-associated toxins, the “Plastic-Vectors Project” will address key challenges, and deliver a step-change in our understanding of the human health risks associated with microplastics in coastal environments. By characterising the importance of microplastics as an environmental reservoir and vector for microbial communities, this project will have far-reaching implications for human health and well-being, coastal ecosystem services and economic stability. By understanding the multi-pollutant and multi-scale effects of microplastics, the “Plastic Vectors Project” will deliver a more accurate risk assessment of microplastics by integrating the effects of harmful plastic-associated microbes together with chemical co-pollutants.