CASUS Institute Seminar, Prof. Dr. Marcia Ferraz, Group leader, Gene Center Munich, Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München (Germany)

Decades of careless use, and improper disposal have resulted in plastic pollution accumulating almost everywhere on earth, and microplastics (MPs) have now been documented in even the most remote environments. Although MPs are now a major scientific focus generating >10,000 peer-reviewed publications annually, most research has been targeted at marine/aquatic ecosystems and very little is known about the occurrence and fate of MPs in terrestrial systems.

Studies on terrestrial mammals are equally limited, with only ca. 70 peer reviewed papers on MPs in terrestrial mammals having been published in the last 20 years, compared to >20,000 on MPs generally. This knowledge gap is made all the more noteworthy by the fact that terrestrial ecosystems are the primary source of plastic pollution, and may represent a larger environmental reservoir than oceans.

We argue that the primary reason for this is a lack of synchronised interdisciplinarity. With this in mind, our overarching goal is to leverage techniques from a broad range of STEM fields to understand the fate of plastic pollution in terrestrial environments and determine the extent to which MPs may accumulate and move through terrestrial food chains, potentially impacting animal and human health.