Polyethylene microplastics have been detected in farmland soil, irrigation water, and soil organisms in agroecosystems, while plastic mulching is suggested as a crucial source of microplastic pollution in the agroecosystem. Plastic mulch can be broken down from plastic mulch debris to microplastics through environmental aging and degradation process in farmlands, and the colonization of polyethylene-degrading microorganisms on polyethylene microplastics can eventually enzymatically depolymerize the polyethylene molecular chains with CO₂ release through the tricarboxylic acid cycle. The selective colonization of microplastics by soil microorganisms can cause changes in soil microbial community composition, and it can consequently elicit changes in enzyme activities and nutrient element content in the soil. The biological uptake of polyethylene microplastics and the associated disturbance of energy investment are the main mechanisms impacting soil-dwelling animal development and behavior. As polyethylene microplastics are highly hydrophobic, their presence among soil particles can contribute to soil water repellency and influence soil water availability. Polyethylene microplastics have been shown to cause impacts on crop plant growth, as manifested by the effects of polyethylene microplastics on soil properties and soil biota in the agroecosystems. This review reveals the degradation process, biological impacts, and associated mechanisms of polyethylene microplastics in agroecosystems and could be a critical reference for their risk assessment and management. Copyright © 2023 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Inc.
CitationQiang, L., Hu, H., Li, G., Xu, J., Cheng, J., Wang, J., & Zhang, R. (2023). Plastic mulching, and occurrence, incorporation, degradation, and impacts of polyethylene microplastics in agroecosystems. Ecotoxicology and Environmental Safety, 263, Article 115274. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ecoenv.2023.115274
- Plastic mulch
- Polyethylene microplastics
- Degradation process
- Biological impacts