Microplastics (MPs) occur widely in terrestrial ecosystems. However, information on the interaction of MPs with metals in terrestrial ecosystems is lacking in the literature. The present study investigated the effects of two types of MPs (high-density polyethylene (HDPE) and polystyrene (PS)) with different dosages (i.e., 0, 0.1%, 1%, and 10%) on the uptake and effects of Cd in maize plants grown in an agricultural soil. Results showed that addition of Cd at a 5 mg/kg caused inhibited plant growth and resulted in high Cd accumulation in plant tissues. Polyethylene alone showed no significant phytotoxic effects, but a high-dose of HDPE (10%) amplified Cd phytotoxicity. Polystyrene negatively affected maize growth and phytoxicity further increased in the presence of Cd. Both HDPE and PS caused soil diethylenetriaminepentaacetic acid (DTPA)-extractable Cd concentrations to increase but did not significantly affect Cd uptake into plant tissues. In the soil without Cd addition, HDPE decreased soil pH, while PS did not significantly alter soil pH. However, in the soil spiked with Cd, both HDPE and PS increased pH. Overall, impacts on plant growth and Cd accumulation varied with MP type and dose, and PS induced substantial phytotoxicity. In conclusion, co-occurring MPs can change Cd bioavailability, plant performance, and soil traits. Our findings highlight the ecological impacts that could occur from the release of MPs into soil.
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