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