Department of Biological Sciences, National University of Singapore, 10 Science Drive 4, 117555, Singapore; St. John Island National Marine Laboratory, Tropical Marine Science Institute (TMSI), National University of Singapore, 18 Kent Ridge Road, 119227, Singapore. Electronic address: [Email]
Plastic waste is a global issue of an increasing concern in aquatic ecosystems. Microplastics form a large proportion of plastic pollution in marine environments. Although microplastics are prevalent, their distribution along the coasts of tropical regions is not well studied. Microplastic pieces (1-5 mm) were collected from two distinct regions along the coastlines of Singapore, from the northern coast in the Johor Strait and the southern coast in the Singapore Strait. Microplastics were present in concentrations ranging from 9.20-59.9 particles per kg of dry sand sediment. The majority of microplastics identified were foam particles (55%) and fragments (35%). Microplastics were significantly more abundant on heavily populated beaches compared to pristine beaches. High throughput sequencing was used to profile the communities of bacteria on the surfaces of microplastic particles. The structure of the microbial communities was primarily characterised by Proteobacteria and Bacteroidetes and were distinct across sites. Hydrocarbon-degrading genera such as Erythrobacter were dominant in areas with heavy shipping and pollution. Potential pathogenic genera such as Vibrio and Pseudomonas were also identified. This study highlights the diverse bacterial assemblages present on marine microplastic surfaces and the importance of understanding the bacterial plastisphere.