A1 Journal article (refereed)
Decomposition rate and biochemical fate of carbon from natural polymers and microplastics in boreal lakes (2022)

Vesamäki, J. S., Nissinen, R., Kainz, M. J., Pilecky, M., Tiirola, M., & Taipale, S. J. (2022). Decomposition rate and biochemical fate of carbon from natural polymers and microplastics in boreal lakes. Frontiers in Microbiology, 13, Article 1041242. https://doi.org/10.3389/fmicb.2022.1041242

JYU authors or editors

Publication details

All authors or editorsVesamäki, Jussi S.; Nissinen, Riitta; Kainz, Martin J.; Pilecky, Matthias; Tiirola, Marja; Taipale, Sami J.

Journal or seriesFrontiers in Microbiology


Publication year2022

Publication date08/11/2022


Article number1041242

PublisherFrontiers Media SA

Publication countrySwitzerland

Publication languageEnglish


Publication open accessOpenly available

Publication channel open accessOpen Access channel

Publication is parallel published (JYX)https://jyx.jyu.fi/handle/123456789/83863


Microbial mineralization of organic compounds is essential for carbon recycling in food webs. Microbes can decompose terrestrial recalcitrant and semi-recalcitrant polymers such as lignin and cellulose, which are precursors for humus formation. In addition to naturally occurring recalcitrant substrates, microplastics have been found in various aquatic environments. However, microbial utilization of lignin, hemicellulose, and microplastics as carbon sources in freshwaters and their biochemical fate and mineralization rate in freshwaters is poorly understood. To fill this knowledge gap, we investigated the biochemical fate and mineralization rates of several natural and synthetic polymer-derived carbon in clear and humic lake waters. We used stable isotope analysis to unravel the decomposition processes of different 13C-labeled substrates [polyethylene, polypropylene, polystyrene, lignin/hemicellulose, and leaves (Fagus sylvatica)]. We also used compound-specific isotope analysis and molecular biology to identify microbes associated with used substrates. Leaves and hemicellulose were rapidly decomposed compared to microplastics which were degraded slowly or below detection level. Furthermore, aromatic polystyrene was decomposed faster than aliphatic polyethylene and polypropylene. The major biochemical fate of decomposed substrate carbon was in microbial biomass. Bacteria were the main decomposers of all studied substrates, whereas fungal contribution was poor. Bacteria from the family Burkholderiaceae were identified as potential leaf and polystyrene decomposers, whereas polypropylene and polyethylene were not decomposed.

Keywordsdecomposition (biodegradation)micro-litterpolymersmineralisation

Free keywordsdecomposition; microplastic; polymer; mineralization; Burkholderiaceae

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Ministry reportingYes

Reporting Year2022

JUFO rating1

Last updated on 2024-15-06 at 22:26