May 20, 2024
vacuum cleaner fungi

Fungi Use “Vacuum Cleaner Effect” to Combat Nanoplastics in Soil

Researchers at Lund University in Sweden have discovered that fungi have a unique ability to clean up their surroundings by attracting and trapping nanoplastics, according to a study published in Science of The Total Environment. Plastic waste, particularly small particles known as micro- and nanoplastics, is a major global concern as it can contaminate soils through improper disposal and degradation of materials. It is well-established that nanoplastics can be toxic to various organisms, but their impact on soil ecosystems is not well understood.

Using micro-engineered soil models and microfluidic chips, the researchers examined the effect of polystyrene nanoplastics on bacteria and fungi. They found that nanoplastics hindered the growth of both bacteria and fungi. However, the fungus displayed a unique ability to remove the nanoplastics from its surroundings, creating a cleaner environment that allowed for its own growth.

The researchers observed a “vacuum cleaner effect” in which the fungal branches collected and retained the nanoplastics present in their vicinity. As a result, the fungal environment became nearly nanoplastic-free, enabling the fungus to thrive. It should be noted that the study’s findings may vary depending on the fungal species involved.

The discovery highlights the urgent need to address plastic waste and prevent soil pollution. Identifying fungi that can selectively attract and remove nanoplastics from the soil solution could assist other organisms in coping with the pollution. Additionally, attracting plastic-degrading bacteria could be beneficial in breaking down the nanoplastics. While the fungal “vacuum cleaner” approach is not a comprehensive solution to the problem, it offers a glimmer of hope for the future.

The researchers emphasize the importance of further studies to understand how the stress response of soil microbes affects soil functions in the presence of nanoplastics. By gaining a deeper understanding of these interactions, scientists can develop more effective strategies to mitigate the environmental impact of plastic waste.

The findings of this study highlight the potential role of fungi in combating nanoplastic pollution in soil. As the global plastic waste problem continues to escalate, innovative solutions like harnessing the abilities of fungi could play a crucial role in preserving and rehabilitating our ecosystems. Addressing plastic waste at its source and adopting sustainable practices are key steps in preventing further contamination of our soils and protecting the health of our planet.

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1.Source: Coherent Market Insights, Public sources, Desk research
2.We have leveraged AI tools to mine information and compile it