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Assessing the effects of microplastics on marine benthic communities

Project Description

Project Rationale:
Continental shelf sediments are biogeochemical hotspots. Interactions between benthic invertebrates and bacteria drive the remineralization of organic matter, returning inorganic nutrients to the overlying waters and stimulating primary production. This ultimately sustains the production of harvestable fish and shellfish biomass.
Recent modelling studies suggest that shelf sediments will receive the majority of marine microplastics (MPs). There is growing concern that these non-degradable particulate contaminants have the potential to directly harm marine animals. Little is known about the direct effects of MPs and their constituent additives and adsorbed chemicals on the benthic microorganisms that drive the biogeochemistry of marine sediments. This hinders our ability to understand how marine ecosystems, and the many functions and services they provide, are likely to respond to the projected increase in MPs in the coming decades.
This PhD will investigate how MPs and their associated contaminants (e.g. the ubiquitous, lipophilic pesticide DDT) influence the composition of sediment microorganisms and their capacity to remineralise organic matter. Additional experiments will examine how the presence of benthic invertebrates, and their behavioral responses to MPs, influence sediment microbial communities and the rates at which they recycle nutrients.

Funding Notes

You can apply for fully-funded studentships (stipend and fees) from INSPIRE if you:
Are a UK or EU national.
Have no restrictions on how long you can stay in the UK.
Have been 'ordinarily resident' in the UK for 3 years prior to the start of the project.

Please click View Website for more information on eligibilty and how to apply


Godbold & Solan (2013) Long-term effects of warming and ocean acidification are modified by seasonal variation in species responses and environmental conditions. Philosophical Transactions of The Royal Society B Biological Sciences 368(1627):20130186

Mayor et al. (2013). Metal-macrofauna interactions determine microbial community structure and function in copper contaminated sediments. PLoS ONE 8(5): e64940.

Mayor et al. (2017). Detecting the presence of fish farm-derived organic matter at the seafloor using stable isotope analysis of phospholipid fatty acids. Nature Scientific Reports 7:5146.

How good is research at University of Southampton in Earth Systems and Environmental Sciences?

FTE Category A staff submitted: 68.62

Research output data provided by the Research Excellence Framework (REF)

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