In field conditions, commercial pigment grade TiO2 was not harmful to terrestrial isopods but reduced leaf litter fragmentation

Jemec A, Kos M, Drobne D, Koponen IK, Vukić J, Ferreira NGC, Loureiro S, McShane HVA
[ pdf ] [ site ] Science of the Total Environment, 2016

We investigated the effects of a commercial pigment grade rutile TiO2 on the terrestrial isopod Porcellio scaber in three locations that differed in terms of abiotic and biotic conditions: the laboratory, open air, and the closed barn. Mortality and isopod energy reserves (digestive gland total proteins, lipids and carbohydrates) were not affected following 14 d exposure to up to 1000 mg TiO2 per kg dry leaves (mg/kg) under any experimental scenario. However, in the field tests, isopods consumption of TiO2-coated leaves was reduced compared to that of uncoated leaves and the decrease was not dose-dependent. The highest reduction was in the closed barn (45–56 %) rather than in the open-air (38–40 %). In laboratory-based food choice tests, isopods neither preferred nor avoided leaves coated with TiO2, suggesting that rather than sensing the TiO2 on the leaves directly, the isopods under open-air and barn exposure responded to altered attractiveness and/or palatability of the TiO2 amended leaves. We propose that this could be due to altered microbial population on the leaves, a hypothesis that requires further investigation. Although short-term exposure to atmospheric deposition of up to 1000 mg/kg commercial TiO2 is unlikely to pose an immediate threat to isopod mortality and energy balance, reduced leaf feeding may have implications for the decomposition of plant material.