iForest - Biogeosciences and Forestry


Can forest trees take up and transport nanoplastics?

Maria Elvira Murazzi (1)   , Paolo Cherubini (1-2), Ivano Brunner (1), Ralf Kägi (3), Matthias Saurer (1), Paula Ballikaya (1), Frank Hagedorn (1), Maya Al Sid Cheikh (4), Gabriela Onandia (5-6), Arthur Gessler (1-7)

iForest - Biogeosciences and Forestry, Volume 15, Issue 2, Pages 128-132 (2022)
doi: https://doi.org/10.3832/ifor4021-015
Published: Apr 09, 2022 - Copyright © 2022 SISEF

Research Articles

Plastic contamination of ecosystems has increased dramatically over the last decades, raising concerns about the negative impacts of plastic particles on aquatic and terrestrial systems. In recent years, the focus of most research has shifted from large fragments (macroplastic) to micro- (<5 mm) and more recently to nano-plastic (<1000 nm) particles as more evidence has come to light about their ubiquity in water, soils, and living systems, and their effects on ecosystem and human health. In this study, we investigate nanoplastic uptake in the roots of seedlings (1-2 years old) of three different tree species and assess their transport to different tissues. Parts of the main roots of silver birch (Betula pendula Roth), sessile oak (Quercus petraea Matt. [Liebl.]), and Norway spruce (Picea abies [L.] Karst.) were immersed for one or four days in a suspension containing 13C-labelled nano-sized polystyrene particles (13C-nPS; 99% 13C, d = 28 ± 8 (1 σ) nm). Carbon stable isotope analysis showed significant 13C enrichment (P < 0.05) in the immersed part of the root after one day of treatment in all three species, and after four days in Q. petraea alone. Signals of significant 13C enrichment were also found in the aboveground tissues of the trees. The stem of B. pendula in particular showed a significant 13C enrichment after one day of treatment (P < 0.01). This indicates that nanoplastic particles can be taken up through tree roots into the tree’s central cylinder, where they are subsequently conveyed through the tree by acropetal transport via the xylem.


Forest Trees, Nanoplastic, Polystyrene

Authors’ address

Paolo Cherubini 0000-0002-9809-250X
Department of Forest and Conservation Sciences, Faculty of Forestry, University of British Columbia, Vancouver BC (Canada)
Ralf Kägi 0000-0002-2430-4733
Eawag, Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology, Dübendorf (Switzerland)
Maya Al Sid Cheikh 0000-0003-3558-1733
Department of Chemistry, University of Surrey, Stag Hill, Guildford, GU2 7XH, Surrey (United Kingdom)
Gabriela Onandia 0000-0001-9597-1923
Research Platform “Data”, Leibniz Centre for Agricultural Landscape Research (ZALF), Müncheberg (Germany)
Gabriela Onandia 0000-0001-9597-1923
Berlin-Brandenburg Institute of Advanced Biodiversity Research (BBIB), Berlin (Germany)
Arthur Gessler 0000-0002-1910-9589
Institute of Terrestrial Ecosystems, ETH Zurich, Zurich (Switzerland)

Corresponding author

Maria Elvira Murazzi


Murazzi ME, Cherubini P, Brunner I, Kägi R, Saurer M, Ballikaya P, Hagedorn F, Al Sid Cheikh M, Onandia G, Gessler A (2022). Can forest trees take up and transport nanoplastics?. iForest 15: 128-132. - doi: 10.3832/ifor4021-015

Academic Editor

Werther Guidi Nissim

Paper history

Received: Nov 15, 2021
Accepted: Feb 22, 2022

First online: Apr 09, 2022
Publication Date: Apr 30, 2022
Publication Time: 1.53 months

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