Publication Alert: A new protocol to study microplastics colonization in marine waters

Imptox researchers from UGent and the CNRS have developed a novel protocol, derived from their microplastics incubation experiments in France and Belgium, now published on protocols.io.


In Imptox, we have embarked on a crucial journey to decipher the mysteries of micro- and nanoplastics (MNPs) as vessels of potentially hazardous materials adhering to their surfaces. Collaborating closely, Imptox partners UGent and CNRS are pioneering experiments by incubating various types of microplastics in three different environments across the Belgian North Sea and the French Mediterranean: an aquaculture farm, a harbour, and a marine protected area throughout the changing seasons. This meticulous study is designed to dissect the process of bacterial colonization based on the material, location, and season, aiming to shed light on microbial colonization's nuances. Our poster offers a glimpse into the experiment conducted in France, while a recent scientific publication delves into the incubation procedure with profound clarity.

The Paper at Hand: "Microplastics in marine environments: protocol for isolating natural biofilms from seawater-incubated particles," published on protocols.io by Imptox researchers Méril Massot (CNRS), Elsa Gadoin (UGent), Andreja Rajkovic (UGent), and Stephanie Bedhomme (CNRS), stands as a testament to the urgency of understanding microplastics in our oceans. The publication, dated 25 March 2024, charts a novel path in studying microbial communities that quickly form on microplastics.

The outlined workflow introduces a reproducible method for incubating microplastic particles in seawater, controlling their origin, incubation duration, and weathering conditions meticulously. This protocol is pivotal, ensuring that the natural marine biofilms associated with microplastics are studied under controlled conditions to minimize contamination and accurately estimate microplastics concentration through direct counting. The core objective is to standardize this protocol, facilitating comparisons between natural communities associated with microplastic pollution and bridging gaps in our understanding.

By shedding light on how microplastics serve as breeding grounds for microbial communities, the research opens new avenues in understanding their role in marine ecosystems and their potential hazards to marine life and, by extension, human health.

The implications of this study extend beyond the academic realm, aiming to inspire policy-relevant data that could steer improved human health hazard and risk assessments. Researchers are currently analyzing the biofilms they have harvested from these experiments, with results expected to be shared soon. As we navigate through the complex interactions of these microscopic invaders, our continued research not only seeks to safeguard our oceans but also to pave the way for a healthier planet for future generations.


Méril Massot, Elsa Gadoin, Andreja Rajkovic, Stephanie Bedhomme. 2024. Microplastics in marine environments: protocol for isolating natural biofilms from seawater-incubated particles. protocols.io