Impact of environmentally relevant nano- and micro-plastics on soil invertebrates (ARRS J1-2482)

In recent years, microplastics pollution has become one of the major public environmental concerns expressed throughout the globe. Although terrestrial environment is a substantial source and sink of microplastics pollution, there is still a lack of comparative knowledge regarding potential sublethal effects that nano- and micro-plastics (NMPs) may have on terrestrial organisms. The main objective of this project is to investigate the impact of environmentally relevant NMPs on terrestrial invertebrates. Environmental relevance will be considered in terms of tested plastic particles, which will be derived from relevant materials commonly found in agricultural soil, and by subjecting NMPs to environmental weathering. Nano- and microplastics will be milled from plastic source materials such as for example car tyres, agricultural plastic mulch and textiles. Terrestrial organisms with different ecological roles and soil niches will be studied: the woodlice Porcellio scaber, white earthworm Enchytraeus crypticus and mealworm beetle Tenebrio molitor. They will be exposed to NMPs via soil exposure and afterwards whole-organism endpoints such as the feeding rate, growth, energy reserves and survival will be followed. The ingestion, fragmentation and retention of microplastics in the gut will be investigated using light and electron microscopy. Immune-related parameters will be followed using spectrophotometric analysis and expression of selected immune-related genes. Proteome analysis of haemolymph will also be done to complement gene expression analysis interpretation as well as to elucidate antioxidant and detoxification processes. Knowledge regarding microplastics effects on terrestrial organisms will contribute to in-depth understanding of potential hazard posed by nano- and microplastics.

Work packages and approach


Biotechnical Faculty (Department of Biology, Department of Animal Science, prof. Mojca Narat)

Institute Jozef Stefan (IJS) (prof. dr. Igor Križaj, doc.dr. Andrijana Leonardi)

Slovenian National Building and Civil Engineering Institute (ZAG) (doc. dr. Andrijana Sever Škapin, dr. Luka Škrlep)

Partners from abroad:

Vrije Universiteit, Amsterdam; prof. Cornelis A. M. (Kees) van Gestel

Finnish Environment Institute SYKE, dr. Salla Selonen


  • DOLAR, Andraž, DROBNE, Damjana, DOLENEC, Matej, MARINŠEK, Marjan, JEMEC KOKALJ, Anita. Time-dependent immune response in Porcellio scaber following exposure to microplastics and natural particles. Science of the total environment., in press
  • JEMEC KOKALJ, Anita, DOLAR, Andraž, TITOVA, Jelizaveta, VISNAPUU, Meeri, ŠKRLEP, Luka, DROBNE, Damjana, VIJA, Heiki, KISAND, Vambola, HEINLAAN, Margit. Long term exposure to virgin and recycled ldpe microplastics induced minor effects in the freshwater and terrestrial crustaceans Daphnia magna and Porcellio scaber. Polymers
  • DOLAR, Andraž, SELONEN, Salla, GESTEL, Cornelis A. M. van, PERC, Valentina, DROBNE, Damjana, JEMEC KOKALJ, Anita. Microplastics, chlorpyrifos and their mixtures modulate immune processes in the terrestrial crustacean Porcellio scaber. Science of the total environment, 2021, vol. 772, article 144900
  • JEMEC KOKALJ, Anita, HARTMANN, Nanna B., DROBNE, Damjana, POTTHOFF, Annegret, KÜHNEL, Dana. Quality of nanoplastics and microplastics ecotoxicity studies : refining quality criteria for nanomaterial studies. Journal of hazardous materials, 2021, vol. 415, str. 1-12.
  • SELONEN, Salla, DOLAR, Andraž, JEMEC KOKALJ, Anita, SACKEY, Lyndon N.A., SKALAR, Tina, CRUZ FERNANDES, Virgínia, REDE, Diana, DELERUE-MATOS, Cristina, HURLEY, Rachel, NIZZETTO, Luca, GESTEL, Cornelis A. M. van. Exploring the impacts of microplastics and associated chemicals in the terrestrial environment : exposure of soil invertebrates to tire particles. Environmental research : multidisciplinary journal of environmental sciences, ecology, and public health, 2021, vol. , str. 1-32


  • NAGODE, Ana, DOLAR, Andraž, DROBNE, Damjana, JEMEC KOKALJ, Anita. Effects of microplastics from disposable medical masks on terrestrial invertebrates. V: HORVAT, Monika (ur.), et al. Cutting Edge 2021 : Scientific conference for young researchers : Independent in science : Thursday, 16. 09. 21, virtual conference : book of abstracts. Ljubljana: Fakulteta za kemijo in kemijsko tehnologijo. 2021.
  • DOLAR, Andraž, DROBNE, Damjana, JEMEC KOKALJ, Anita. Innate immunity in the common woodlouse Porcellio scaber : some novel biomarkers. V: Facets of terrestrial isopod biology : abstract book, 11th International Symposium on Terrestrial Isopod Biology, online edition, July 12-14, 2021.
  • JEMEC KOKALJ, Anita, HARTMANN, Nanna B., POTTHOFF, Annegret, DROBNE, Damjana, KÜHNEL, Dana. Quality of nanoplastics and microplastics ecotoxicity studies : refining nanomaterial-related quality criteria. V: Global challenges, an emergency for environmental sciences : abstract book : SETAC Europe 31st Annual Meeting, 3-6 May 2021, virtual, SETAC Europe 31st Annual Meeting, 3-6 May 2021

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