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The influence of microplastics on trophic interaction strengths and oviposition preferences of dipterans

Cuthbert, R. N., Al-Jaibachi, R., Dalu, T., Dick, J. T. A. and Callaghan, A. ORCID: (2019) The influence of microplastics on trophic interaction strengths and oviposition preferences of dipterans. Science of the Total Environment, 651 (Part 2). pp. 2420-2423. ISSN 0048-9697

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To link to this item DOI: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2018.10.108


Microplastic (MP) pollution continues to proliferate in freshwater, marine and terrestrial environments, but with their biotic implications remaining poorly understood. Biotic interactions such as predation can profoundly influence ecosystem structuring, stability and functioning. However, we currently lack quantitative understandings of how trophic interaction strengths and associated behaviours are influenced by MP pollution, and how transference of MPs between trophic levels relates to consumptive traits. We also lack understanding of key life-history effects of MPs, for example, reproductive strategies such as oviposition. The present study examines the predatory ability of non-biting midge larvae, Chaoborus flavicans, towards larvae of Culex pipiens mosquitoes when the latter are exposed to MPs, using a functional response (FR) approach. Transfer of MPs occurred from larval mosquitoes to larval midges via predation. Microplastics transfer was significantly positively related to predation rates. Predation by C. flavicans followed a Type II FR, with average maximum feeding rates of 6.2 mosquito larvae per hour. These and other FR parameters (attack rates and handling times) were not significantly influenced by the presence of MPs. Further, C. pipiens adults did not avoid ovipositing in habitats with high concentrations of MPs. We thus demonstrate that MPs can move readily through freshwater food webs via biotic processes such as predation, and that uptake correlates strongly with consumption rates. Further, as MPs do not deter adult mosquitoes from ovipositing, our experiments reveal high potential for MP exposure and transference through ecosystems.

Item Type:Article
Divisions:Life Sciences > School of Biological Sciences > Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
ID Code:80337
Uncontrolled Keywords:Chaoborus, Culex, Food chain, Functional response, Microplastics transference, Predator-prey


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