Marine vs freshwater microalgae exopolymers as biosolutions to microplastics pollution


Microalgae can excrete exopolymer substances (EPS) with a potential to form hetero-aggregates with microplastic particles. In this work, two freshwater (Microcystis panniformis and Scenedesmus sp.) and two marine (Tetraselmis sp. and Gloeocapsa sp.) EPS producing microalgae were exposed to different microplastics. In this study, the influence of the microplastic particles type, size and density in the production of EPS and hetero-aggregates potential was studied. Most microalgae contaminated with microplastics displayed a cell abundance decrease (of up to 42%) in the cultures. The results showed that the formed aggregates were composed of microalgae and EPS (homo-aggregates) or a combination of microalgae, EPS and microplastics (hetero-aggregates). The hetero-aggregation was dependent on the size and yield production of EPS, which was species specific. Microcystis panniformis and Scenedesmus sp. exhibited small EPS, with a higher propension to disaggregate, and consequently lower capabilities to aggregate microplastics. Tetraselmis sp. displayed a higher ability to aggregate both low and high-density microplastics, being partially limited by the size of the microplastics. Gloeocapsa sp. had an outstanding EPS production and presented excellent microplastic aggregation capabilities (adhered onto the surface and also incorporated into the EPS). The results highlight the potential of microalgae to produce EPS and flocculate microplastics, contributing to their vertical transport and consequent deposition. Thus, this work shows the potential of microalgae as biocompatible solutions to water microplastics treatment. (C) 2019 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.



subject category

Environmental Sciences & Ecology


Cunha, C; Faria, M; Nogueira, N; Ferreira, A; Cordeiro, N

our authors


This work could not have been possible without the support of project REBECA (MAC/1.1a/060) in correlation with the Spanish Algae Bank (BEA). Observatory of Madeira (OOM) project (M1420-01-0145-FEDER-000001) is also acknowledged for the grant to Marisa Faria.

Share this project:

Related Publications

We use cookies for marketing activities and to offer you a better experience. By clicking “Accept Cookies” you agree with our cookie policy. Read about how we use cookies by clicking "Privacy and Cookie Policy".