Distribution of Microplastics and Nanoplastics in Aquatic Ecosystems and Their Impacts on Aquatic Organisms, with Emphasis on Microalgae

  • Jun-Kit WanEmail author
  • Wan-Loy Chu
  • Yih-Yih Kok
  • Choy-Sin Lee
Part of the Reviews of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology book series (RECT, volume 246)


Plastics, with their many useful physical and chemical properties, are widely used in various industries and activities of daily living. Yet, the insidious effects of plastics, particularly long-term effects on aquatic organisms, are not properly understood. Plastics have been shown to degrade to micro- and nanosize particles known as microplastics and nanoplastics, respectively. These minute particles have been shown to cause various adverse effects on aquatic organisms, ranging from growth inhibition, developmental delay and altered feeding behaviour in aquatic animals to decrease of photosynthetic efficiency and induction of oxidative stress in microalgae. This review paper covers the distribution of microplastics and nanoplastics in aquatic ecosystems, focusing on their effects on microalgae as well as co-toxicity of microplastics and nanoplastics with other pollutants. Besides that, this review paper also discusses future research directions which could be taken to gain a better understanding of the impacts of microplastics and nanoplastics on aquatic ecosystems.


Aquatic ecosystem Copper Co-toxicity Daphnia magna Dunaliella tertiolecta Endocrine-disrupting chemicals Fish Food chain Heavy metals Leaching process Metal oxide nanoparticles Microalgae Microplastics Nanoplastics Persistent organic pollutants (POP) Phytoplankton Polystyrene Polyethylene Poly(vinyl chloride) (PVC) Plastics Plasticizers Pseudokirchneriella subcapitata Sediment-water interface Shellfish Tetraselmis chui 







Carbon dioxide


Dry weight


Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy


Glutathione peroxidase


Glutathione reductase


Glutathione S-transferases


High-density polyethylene


Mitogen-activated protein kinase










Poly(ethylene terephthalate)


Poly(lactic acid)


Poly(methyl methacrylate)






Polyethyleneimine polystyrene




Poly(vinyl chloride)


Reactive oxygen species


Superoxide dismutase


Wet weight



The authors would like to acknowledge the internal grant (Grant No. IMU 377/2017) from the International Medical University in supporting the research project on the effects of MP and NP on microalgae.


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jun-Kit Wan
    • 1
    Email author
  • Wan-Loy Chu
    • 1
  • Yih-Yih Kok
    • 2
  • Choy-Sin Lee
    • 3
  1. 1.School of Postgraduate StudiesInternational Medical UniversityKuala LumpurMalaysia
  2. 2.Applied Biomedical Science and Biotechnology Division, School of Health SciencesInternational Medical UniversityKuala LumpurMalaysia
  3. 3.Department of Pharmaceutical Chemistry, School of PharmacyInternational Medical UniversityKuala LumpurMalaysia

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