Document Type


Publication Date



Bioplastics are considered sustainable alternatives to conventional microplastics which are recognized as a threat to terrestrial ecosystems. However, little is known about the potential ecotoxicological effects of bioplastics on soil fauna and ecosystems. The present study assessed the toxicity of microplastics [Polystyrene (PS), Polyethylene (PE)] and bioplastics [Polyvinyl alcohol (PVA), Sodium polyacrylate (NaPa) on a key soil fauna Oppia nitens, a soil oribatid mite, and investigated the ecological relevance of O. nitens avoidance response as a valuable tool for the risk assessment of contaminated soils such as the Superfund sites. Findings showed that the mites’ net response indicated avoidance behavior such that in most cases as concentrations of micro- and bioplastics increased, so did the avoidance responses. The avoidance EC50 endpoints showed PS < PE < PVA < NaPa, indicating higher deleterious effects of microplastics. High toxicity of PS in soils to O. nitens at EC50 of 165 (±25) mg/kg compared to bioplastics and other known contaminants poses an enormous threat to soil. For bioplastics in this study, there were no significant avoidances at concentrations up to 16,200 mg/kg compared to PS and PE which showed avoidance responses at 300 and 9000 mg/kg respectively, implying that bioplastics might be relatively safer to soil mites compared to conventional microplastics. Also, results indicated that long-term heavy metal pollution such as in contaminated Superfund sites decreased microbial biomass; a useful bioindicator of soil pollution. Furthermore, O. nitens avoidance of heavy metals contaminated sites demonstrated the ecological relevance of avoidance response test when assessing the habitat integrity of contaminated soil. The present study further supports the inclusion of the oribatid mite, O. nitens in the ecological risk assessment of contaminants in soil.


Graphical Abstract

Author's accepted manuscript version available for download here. Version of record available via DOI.