pp 1-23 | Cite as

Biological and Ecological Impacts of Plastic Debris in Aquatic Ecosystems

  • Dannielle Senga GreenEmail author
Part of the The Handbook of Environmental Chemistry book series


Plastic debris is now ubiquitous in aquatic ecosystems worldwide and may impact different biological levels of organisation, with effects ranging from individual organisms to ecosystem functioning. Demonstrating these effects is not always straightforward, and there is uncertainty at every level. In particular, understanding of the wider impacts on biodiversity and ecosystem functioning is challenging, and little research has been done in this area. This chapter gives a broad overview of hierarchical impacts of macro- and microplastic pollution on aquatic ecosystems. Topics include the potential for microplastics to spread antimicrobial resistance and a summary of current knowledge concerning wider ecological impacts of macro- and microplastic debris such as changes to assemblage composition and structure and effects on nutrient cycling and primary productivity. The potential impacts of biodegradable plastics are also discussed and, in most cases, have similar effects to plastics made from conventional polymers emphasising that the same precautions need to be taken to ensure that these items do not become the litter of the future.


Biodiversity Ecosystem services Microplastics Plastic litter Polylactic acid (PLA) 


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© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Applied Ecology Research Group, School of Life SciencesAnglia Ruskin UniversityCambridgeUK

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