Low Concentrations of Silver Nanoparticles in Biosolids Cause Adverse Ecosystem Responses under Realistic Field Scenario

Colman, Benjamin P.; Arnaout, Christina L.; Anciaux, Sarah; Gunsch, Claudia K.; Hochella Jr, Michael F.; Kim, Bojeong; Lowry, Gregory V.; McGill, Bonnie M.; Reinsch, Brian C.; Richardson, Curtis J.; Unrine, Jason M.; Wright, Justin P.; Yin, Liyan; Bernhardt, Emily S.
February 2013
PLoS ONE;Feb2013, Vol. 8 Issue 2, p1
Academic Journal
A large fraction of engineered nanomaterials in consumer and commercial products will reach natural ecosystems. To date, research on the biological impacts of environmental nanomaterial exposures has largely focused on high-concentration exposures in mechanistic lab studies with single strains of model organisms. These results are difficult to extrapolate to ecosystems, where exposures will likely be at low-concentrations and which are inhabited by a diversity of organisms. Here we show adverse responses of plants and microorganisms in a replicated long-term terrestrial mesocosm field experiment following a single low dose of silver nanoparticles (0.14 mg Ag kg−1 soil) applied via a likely route of exposure, sewage biosolid application. While total aboveground plant biomass did not differ between treatments receiving biosolids, one plant species, Microstegium vimeneum, had 32 % less biomass in the Slurry+AgNP treatment relative to the Slurry only treatment. Microorganisms were also affected by AgNP treatment, which gave a significantly different community composition of bacteria in the Slurry+AgNPs as opposed to the Slurry treatment one day after addition as analyzed by T-RFLP analysis of 16S-rRNA genes. After eight days, N2O flux was 4.5 fold higher in the Slurry+AgNPs treatment than the Slurry treatment. After fifty days, community composition and N2O flux of the Slurry+AgNPs treatment converged with the Slurry. However, the soil microbial extracellular enzymes leucine amino peptidase and phosphatase had 52 and 27% lower activities, respectively, while microbial biomass was 35% lower than the Slurry. We also show that the magnitude of these responses was in all cases as large as or larger than the positive control, AgNO3, added at 4-fold the Ag concentration of the silver nanoparticles.


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