Oral Presentation Australian Microbial Ecology 2017

Microbes associated with plastic pollution on beaches around Australia (#7)

Slobodanka Stojkovic 1 , Mark A Osborn 1
  1. RMIT University, School of Science, RMIT University, Bundoora West, VIC, Australia

Plastic pollution has been recognized as one of the major threats to the aquatic environment in recent years. This includes large plastic objects found in garbage patches, but also small, microplastic fragments that are less than 5mm in size. Plastic fragments in the aquatic environment are the perfect substrate for biofilm growth over time, making them also a great transfer vectors for pathogens and bloom-forming species to areas that would not normally be inhabited with these organisms. Recent research on microbes associated with plastic surfaces (plastisphere) from marine environment, shows that such microbes show seasonal and geographical specificity, and have preference for a particular plastic type. CSIRO survey of plastic in marine waters around Australia showed correlation between plastic number and large cities, but it has not investigated microbes associated with it. We have focused our survey on microbes associated with plastic found on beaches around Australia, from Darwin in the north to Melbourne in the south, including remote Lord Howe Island. Plastic collected from beaches was surveyed for microbial communities using Illumina MiSeq system, while plastic type of each fragment was determined using the FTIR analyses. Alpha- and Gammaproteobacteria dominated communities on plastic fragments. In some cases, we were able to establish the source of plastic on the beach, by the presence of certain genera associated with wastewater treatment plants and freshwater sources. We found no clear association with polymer type, however there was partial grouping of microbial communities by location.