Constraints and Priorities for Conducting Experimental Exposures of Marine Organisms to Microplastics

Marine plastic pollution is a major environmental issue. Given their ubiquitous nature and small dimensions, ingestion of microplastic (MP) and nanoplastic (NP) particles and their subsequent impact on marine life are a growing concern worldwide. Transfers along the trophic chain, including possible translocation, for which the hazards are less understood, are also a major preoccupation. Effects of MP ingestion have been studied on animals through laboratory exposure, showing impacts on feeding activity, reserve depletion and inflammatory responses, with consequences for fitness, notably reproduction. However, most experimental studies have used doses of manufactured virgin microspheres that may not be environmentally realistic. As for most ecotoxicological issues, the environmental relevance of laboratory exposure experiments has recently been debated. Here we review constraints and priorities for conducting experimental exposures of marine wildlife to microplastics based on the literature, feedback from peer reviewers and knowledge gained from our experience. Priorities are suggested taking into account the complexity of microplastics in terms of (i) aggregation status, surface properties and interactions with organic and inorganic materials, (ii) diversity of encountered particles types and concentrations, (iii) particle bioavailability and distribution in experimental tanks to achieve reproducibility and repeatability in estimating effects, and (iv) strict experimental procedures to verify the existence of genuine translocation. Relevant integrative approaches encompass a wide spectrum of methods from -omics to ecophysiological approaches, including modeling, are discussed to provide novel insights on the impacts of MP/NP on marine ecosystems from a long-term perspective. Knowledge obtained in this way would inform stakeholders in such a way as to help them mitigate impacts of the micro- and nano-plastic legacy.


microplastics, nanoplastics, experimental exposure, impacts, marine organisms, physiology

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Paul-Pont Ika, Tallec Kevin, Gonzalez-Fernandez Carmen, Lambert Christophe, Vincent Dorothee, Mazurais David, Zambonino-Infante Jose-Luis, Brotons Guillaume, Lagarde Fabienne, Fabioux Caroline, Soudant Philippe, Huvet Arnaud (2018). Constraints and Priorities for Conducting Experimental Exposures of Marine Organisms to Microplastics. Frontiers In Marine Science. 5 (252). 22p..,

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