Exposure of coastal dune vegetation to plastic bag leachates: A neglected impact of plastic litter.


Department of Biology, University of Pisa, via Derna 1, 56126, Pisa, Italy. Electronic address: [Email]


The presence of plastic bags on coastal dunes worldwide is well documented. Plastic bags contain additives that during rainfall events can leach out from bags into sand dune and be absorbed by seeds and roots of plants. Dune plants play a fundamental role in dune system formation, yet the possible impact of bag leaching on their establishment and development has been neglected. We assessed in laboratory whether (i) not biodegradable bags (high-density polyethylene, PE) and new generation of compostable bags (Mater-bi®, MB) would influence via leaching water chemical/physical properties and (ii) leachates would affect germination and seedling growth using Thinopyrum junceum and Glaucium flavum as models. Leachates were obtained from different amounts of not-exposed and bags exposed to beach or marine conditions simulating various pollution degrees (none, low, intermediate and high pollution). All water variables were affected by leaching. The magnitude of these alterations depended on bag type and environmental exposure. Seeds of T. junceum treated with the high concentration of marine-exposed MB bag leachate germinated later than controls while those of G. flavum treated with the remaining leachates germinated earlier. For both species, leachates from the low concentration of PE and MB marine-exposed bags increased seed germinability. A short radicle was observed in T. junceum seedlings treated with not-exposed MB bag leachates. Glaucium flavum seedlings treated with beach- and marine-exposed PE bags and not-exposed MB bags leachates showed a greater below-aboveground length ratio and those grown with the low concentration of not-exposed PE bag leachate had a longer hypocotyl compared to controls. Leachates from the high concentration of PE and MB bag caused seedling anomalies in both species. These findings indicate that not biodegradable and compostable bags may interact with abiotic/biotic factors and affect via leaching germination phenology, seedling establishment and plant interactions with consequences on dune community structure.


Compostable bag,Glaucium flavum,Polyethylene bag,Seed germination,Seedling growth,Thinopyrum junceum,