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http://www.nytimes.com/2009/12/15/health/15real.html seems to indicate for a surface, to serve as a medium, the following properties are relevant
The article however does not elaborate on the properties a surface must possess to serve as a medium - albeit i would figure it may vary from one virus/bacterium to another.
The same article also states
… when objects in a hotel room - light switches, telephones - were contaminated with a cold virus, 60 percent of healthy volunteers picked up the virus when they touched one of the objects an hour later. Eighteen hours later, the transmission rate was cut in half.
When currency changes hands we rarely ever know whether it may , within a reasonable timespan, have passed through an agent/carrier.
Sir Dumpty loves to sneak off with a currency note to get me to chase him. He is protected; another member of his species may not be so protected. For that matter a person infected with, say, the common cold virus may have passed a note/coin/card to the vendor at the store within a minute of sneezing/coughing into his/her hand. What if the same person , instead, suffered from TB?
So… can currency serve as a medium for transmission of pathogens?
TB is an extremely poor example, because as has been mentioned, it usually requires prolonged contact.
But lets go with something with a low required infectious dose, that's friendly to surface contamination, and persists in the environment: Norovirus.
Can norovirus serve as a medium for pathogens? Absolutely. To be blunt, almost anything will serve as a medium for the right pathogen with some level of efficacy. This is a presentation from the New York Federal Reserve on what contaminates money, but given the outlandish things that can be contaminated with infectious material, there's no reason to suspect money isn't among them.
Wash your hands.
Yes. Salmonella, Staphylococcus aureus and Escherichia coli have all been isolated from paper money. There is a review article here on money (paper money and coins) as a source of infection but it's unfortunately behind a paywall.
Exactly how important money is as a source of infection and for which pathogens is more complex. As you note in your question, material will be important too, making answers to this question also relevant to the subject (although it hasn't been answered yet).
Cash makes a good home for disease-causing bacteria, says study
Cash may be more filthy and disgusting than you thought, according to new research.
Ordinary bank notes, such as dollar bills, can harbor harmful varieties of bacteria, and could be an effective medium for spreading infectious diseases among people, said a group of Hong Kong researchers in a study published this week in the journal Frontiers in Microbiology.
The team said the research can help inform the mechanisms by which infectious diseases and antibiotic resistance spread throughout the world. Hong Kong has seen outbreaks of several diseases since at least the 1960s, including an influenza pandemic in 1968, avian flu in 1997, SARS in 2003, and a swine flu outbreak in 2009.
Currency is possibly one of the main media transmitting pathogens and drug resistance due to its wide circulation in daily life," said a team of researchers hailing from the University of Hong Kong, the Guangzhou Center for Disease Control in China, and Germany's Leibniz Institute for Natural Product Research and Infection Biology.
Given the relatively high risk of pandemics in crowded, cosmopolitan cities with humid climates, like Hong Kong, the researchers said in their study that "it is of clinical importance to examine whether HK banknotes could serve as pathogen reservoirs and vehicles through which pathogenic bacteria and infectious diseases could be transmitted to humans."
The team collected HK $20 notes from cashiers at 12 hospitals and three metro stations throughout Hong Kong and scraped the bills for bacteria samples.
They found that ordinary cash is quite hospitable to bacteria, more than a third of which were potentially pathogenic species, including the well-known and potentially deadly E. coli and V. cholerae (the bacteria that cause cholera).
"In short, banknotes act as a medium ➫sorbing' bacteria from other environments and the potential pathogens live quite well on the banknote surface," said study co-author Jun Li, a researcher from the University of Hong Kong, in a news release.
In particular, currency had a wider diversity of bacteria than samples taken from people's hands, drinking water, marine sediment, and the air in metro stations. They also had a higher chance of having bacteria with antibiotic-resistant genes.
Li said this means the bacteria from cash could be contributing to resistance to the antibiotics that fight bacterial infections.
"The most important recommendation we could raise is that before a cashless society develops, the banks and government should pay extra attention to the hygiene problem of the currency, which is still frequently used in our daily life," Li said, in the release. "We recommend some routine disinfection of the currency from the bank, some public service ads reminding people to pay attention to wash the hands after touching currencies and the promotion of more electronic payment service, like mobile payment. We particularly would like to see the politicians and policy-makers inspired by this study."
Most plant resins are composed of terpenes. Specific components are alpha-pinene, beta-pinene, delta-3 carene, and sabinene, the monocyclic terpenes limonene and terpinolene, and smaller amounts of the tricyclic sesquiterpenes, longifolene, caryophyllene, and delta-cadinene. Some resins also contain a high proportion of resin acids. Rosins on the other hand are less volatile and consist of diterpenes among other compounds. [ citation needed ]
Examples of plant resins include amber, Balm of Gilead, balsam, Canada balsam, Boswellia, copal from trees of Protium copal and Hymenaea courbaril, dammar gum from trees of the family Dipterocarpaceae, Dragon's blood from the dragon trees (Dracaena species), elemi, frankincense from Boswellia sacra, galbanum from Ferula gummosa, gum guaiacum from the lignum vitae trees of the genus Guaiacum, kauri gum from trees of Agathis australis, hashish (Cannabis resin) from Cannabis indica, labdanum from mediterranean species of Cistus, mastic (plant resin) from the mastic tree Pistacia lentiscus, myrrh from shrubs of Commiphora, sandarac resin from Tetraclinis articulata, the national tree of Malta, styrax (a Benzoin resin from various Styrax species) and spinifex resin from Australian grasses.
Amber is fossil resin (also called resinite) from coniferous and other tree species. Copal, kauri gum, dammar and other resins may also be found as subfossil deposits. Subfossil copal can be distinguished from genuine fossil amber because it becomes tacky when a drop of a solvent such as acetone or chloroform is placed on it.  African copal and the kauri gum of New Zealand are also procured in a semi-fossil condition.
Rosin is a solidified resin from which the volatile terpenes have been removed by distillation. Typical rosin is a transparent or translucent mass, with a vitreous fracture and a faintly yellow or brown colour, non-odorous or having only a slight turpentine odour and taste. Rosin is insoluble in water, mostly soluble in alcohol, essential oils, ether, and hot fatty oils. Rosin softens and melts when heated and burns with a bright but smoky flame.
Rosin consists of a complex mixture of different substances including organic acids named the resin acids. Related to the terpenes, resin acid is oxidized terpenes. Resin acids dissolve in alkalis to form resin soaps, from which the resin acids are regenerated upon treatment with acids. Examples of resin acids are abietic acid (sylvic acid), C20H30O2, plicatic acid contained in cedar, and pimaric acid, C20H30O2, a constituent of galipot resin. Abietic acid can also be extracted from rosin by means of hot alcohol. Pimaric acid closely resembles abietic acid into which it passes when distilled in a vacuum it has been supposed to consist of three isomers. [ by whom? ]
Rosin is obtained from pines and some other plants, mostly conifers.  Plant resins are generally produced as stem secretions, but in some Central and South American species of Dalechampia and Clusia they are produced as pollination rewards, and used by some stingless bee species in nest construction.   Propolis, consisting largely of resins collected from plants such as poplars and conifers, is used by honey bees to seal small gaps in their hives, while larger gaps are filled with beeswax. 
Petroleum- and insect-derived resins Edit
Shellac is an example of an insect-derived resin.
Asphaltite and Utah resin are petroleum bitumens.
Human use of plant resins has a very long history that was documented in ancient Greece by Theophrastus, in ancient Rome by Pliny the Elder, and especially in the resins known as frankincense and myrrh, prized in ancient Egypt.  These were highly prized substances, and required as incense in some religious rites.
The word resin comes from French resine, from Latin resina "resin", which either derives from or is a cognate of the Greek ῥητίνη rhētínē "resin of the pine", of unknown earlier origin, though probably non-Indo-European.  
The word "resin" has been applied in the modern world to nearly any component of a liquid that will set into a hard lacquer or enamel-like finish. An example is nail polish. Certain "casting resins" and synthetic resins (such as epoxy resin) have also been given the name "resin".
Some naturally-derived resins, when soft, are known as 'oleoresins', and when containing benzoic acid or cinnamic acid they are called balsams. Oleoresins are naturally-occurring mixtures of an oil and a resin they can be extracted from various plants. Other resinous products in their natural condition are a mix with gum or mucilaginous substances and known as gum resins. Several natural resins are used as ingredients in perfumes, e.g., balsams of Peru and tolu, elemi, styrax, and certain turpentines. 
Non-resinous exudates Edit
Other liquid compounds found inside plants or exuded by plants, such as sap, latex, or mucilage, are sometimes confused with resin but are not the same. Saps, in particular, serve a nutritive function that resins do not.
Plant resins Edit
Plant resins are valued for the production of varnishes, adhesives, and food glazing agents. They are also prized as raw materials for the synthesis of other organic compounds and provide constituents of incense and perfume. The oldest known use of plant resin comes from the late Middle Stone Age in Southern Africa where it was used as an adhesive for hafting stone tools. 
The hard transparent resins, such as the copals, dammars, mastic, and sandarac, are principally used for varnishes and adhesives, while the softer odoriferous oleo-resins (frankincense, elemi, turpentine, copaiba), and gum resins containing essential oils (ammoniacum, asafoetida, gamboge, myrrh, and scammony) are more used for therapeutic purposes, food and incense. The resin of the Aleppo Pine is used to flavour retsina, a Greek resinated wine. 
Synthetic resins Edit
Many materials are produced via the conversion of synthetic resins to solids. Important examples are bisphenol A diglycidyl ether, which is a resin converted to epoxy glue upon the addition of a hardener. Silicones are often prepared from silicone resins via room temperature vulcanization.
Electronic supplementary material is available online at https://doi.org/10.6084/m9.figshare.c.5025788.
Published by the Royal Society. All rights reserved.
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Contaminated Money and Coronaviruses
Given coronavirus’ recent discovery, no scientific studies have yet addressed if it can spread specifically on banknotes or coins. The new coronavirus, like other viruses in that family, causes respiratory infections in humans. To do so, however, the virus needs to enter the body via the mouth or nose. That means any potential transmission involving money necessarily includes touching your face after touching a contaminated bill or coin.
In general, coronaviruses can remain infectious on surfaces exposed to the elements for several days. A recent review of 22 scientific studies showed that “human coronaviruses such as Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) coronavirus, Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) coronavirus or endemic human coronaviruses (HCoV) can persist on inanimate surfaces like metal, glass or plastic for up to 9 days.” Few studies exist on the survival of coronaviruses on paper or other potential banknote material, but a 2003 study conducted on a strain of SARS found infectious coronavirus for up to 72 hours on “press paper” and 96 hours on “cloth.” Based on structural similarities among coronaviruses, it is a reasonable conclusion that this would hold true for the new coronavirus as well.
COUNTERFEIT$ AND CORONAVIRU$?
Here's an odd story that really has me wondering, and I'll be right up front with what my suspicion is. My suspicion is that this "little" story might just possibly have something to do with this coronavirus outbreak. This story was shared by "B." and it has had me wondering for the past few days, and I finally decided to blog about it.
INTERNATIONAL FALLS, Minn. ― U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers at the International Falls Port of Entry seized $900,000 in counterfeit United States currency Friday that was discovered in a commercial rail shipment originating from China.
“CBP officers strive every day to protect the United States from a variety of threats,” said Jason Schmelz, Pembina Area Port Director. “Those threats don’t always come in the form of terrorists or narcotics, but also in the form of counterfeit currency and other goods that have the potential to harm the economy of the United States. Thanks to the dedication of our officers and our partnership with the Secret Service, we were able to keep this currency from entering into circulation.”
Due to the vigilance of CBP officers, a rail container was referred for a Customs Exam Station inspection on Dec. 14, 2019.During the examination, CBP discovered 45 cartons of possible counterfeit currency in the form of $1 bills with a total face value of $900,000. The United States Secret Service was contacted determined the currency is counterfeit.
The counterfeit currency was seized and will be turned over to the Secret Service.
Needless to say, this has me thinking that perhaps this virus outbreak and this counterfeiting operation, which the article clearly implies is based in China. Would nations engage in the covert counterfeiting of a rival's currency? Sure. It's been going on all the time. Think of the vast coin-clipping operations in the Italian city-states, not to mention a "highly unusual coincidence" connected to Venice, the Fourth Crusade, and the Venetian counterfeiting of Byzantine coinage. Or think of the British counterfeiting the assignats of the French revolution, or for that matter, their counterfeiting of American colonial scrip. Or think of the Nazis' "Operation Bernhard," counterfeiting such good copies of British pound sterling notes that the entire issue had to be redesigned after the war and new types of currency issued.
However, there's something very odd about this counterfeiting venture. But to understand that "oddity" and why I think it might be something indicating a connection to the coronavirus story, we have to understand a basic feature of counterfeiting operations. Firstly, counterfeiters do not counterfeit things that do not exist. They do not, for example, counterfeit seven dollar bills for the simple reason that it would be a waste of time and effort. This basic fact has been at the core of my arguments that the various bearer bonds scandals - in which the denominated bonds are denounced as fakes and hoaxes because said denominations supposedly do not exist - are really indicative of the possible existence of a wholly hidden bond market. For those who know the story, think of Japanese Prime Minister Tanaka and the so-called "57 bonds."
Secondly, counterfeiters normally do not counterfeit bills in small denominations, but rather, in larger denominations that typically can be broken down into smaller (real) denominations. Typically, this has meant that counterfeiters focus on American bills of $20, $50, or $100 denominations. These are spent, or broken, for real currency, and thus the profit is made.
Thus, in this story, the counterfeiting of $1 bills is highly unusual, for it's an indicator that profit is not the primary motivation of whomever was ultimately behind the operation. But if currency were selected as the principal means of circulating as a biowarfare platform, it makes eminent sense, for $1 bills circulate widely and quickly, from the change in the grocery store line to tips given in restaurants, and so on.
There are to my mind four corroborating indicators that this high octane speculation may have some traction: (1) the timing of the find occurred in the time frame of the outbreak of the virus (2) the seizure of the counterfeit bills notes the ultimate source was China, via Canada, and there has already been a Canadian side to the coronavirus story, (3) the rapid spread in the USA suggests perhaps that there may be vectors of delivery we're not being told about, and finally, (4) the seizure itself suggests that the US customs was already on the lookout for something. If I can suspect a potential connection of money as a delivery vector for a bioweapon, rest assured, so can the Chinese or American customs.
Covid-19: the greatest burden will fall on older people in low- and middle-.
We are living in unprecedented times. The covid-19 pandemic is escalating rapidly with more than 173, 300 confirmed cases and over 7,000 deaths in 152 countries and regions (see Figure 1). The majority of cases and deaths are among people aged 60 years and older living in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) where healthcare resources to treat people and control the epidemic are limited.
Guidance largely ignores this issue in both high income countries (HICs) and LMICS, the latter of which contain 69% of the global population aged 60 years and over. Their health systems are also weaker, leaving them vulnerable to the worst impacts of covid-19. Limited guidance which is more relevant to HICs has been produced for older people but not for health and social care workers, care homes or day centres. No detailed age-specific data on global cases and mortality has been produced by the World Health Organisation (WHO) even though mortality rates jump sharply in older people, rising from 8% in those aged 70 to 79 years to 15% in those aged 80 and over (see Figure 2 which shows the effect of age on risk of dying from covid-19 from the Chinese outbreak).
In the absence of clear comprehensive guidelines for prevention and control of covid-19 among older people, ad hoc policies are emerging. In Italy scarce hospital and intensive care services are being prioritised for younger, otherwise healthy patients over older patients, according to reports. In the UK, people aged 70 and over will be expected to self-isolate themselves for up to four months in the coming weeks.
In LMICs, older people provide an integral economic and social resource to societies, including bringing up grandchildren to support the labour mobility of their adult children and relatives. Beyond grief and bereavement the implications of covid-19 deaths among the older population will be profound, especially when family members working abroad are unable to return home at short notice.
Increasing numbers of very old people are now being cared for in nursing homes in LMICs. These homes are often unregulated, provide care of very poor quality and may even act as incubators of infection (as do cruise ships, prisons, mines and HIC nursing homes). Outbreaks in LMIC institutions would have serious implications, further underpinning the need for international guidance similar to that issued recently by the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, UNICEF and the WHO regarding children and schools.
The ability of health systems to cope with a surge in demand is extremely limited, especially for patients needing intensive care. Health systems in LMICs face severe constraints on capacity at normal times and are unlikely to be able to keep up, especially if the precarious staffing levels—already depleted by migration, low salaries and poor working conditions—and limited gerontological expertise are reduced further by illness. The needs of older people are not being adequately addressed in developing covid-19 policy and practice. Current social distancing policies ignore the precarious existence of many older people and fail to account for the realities faced by those living alone and individuals who are dependent on others. The high levels of illiteracy in LMICs also present a challenge which has yet to be considered in any meaningful way.
An age perspective needs to be explicitly included in the development of national and global planning for covid-19, and it is increasingly clear that a global expert group should be formed to provide support and guidance for older people, home carers, residential facilities and overburdened hospitals in LMICs.
Shah Ebrahim is an honorary professor of public health at the London School of Hygeine & Tropical Medicine. He would like to thank Peter Lloyd- Sherlock, professor of social policy and international development, University of East Anglia Leon Geffen, Samson Institute for Ageing Research, Cape Town, South Africa and Martin McKee, professor of European public health, London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, for contributing to this article. The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Economist Group or any of its affiliates. The Economist Group cannot accept any responsibility or liability for reliance by any person on this article or any of the information, opinions or conclusions set out in the article.
Beyond Cash: China’s Emerging Payments Market
As China’s economy continues its robust expansion, and as its banking sector finally opens up to foreign competition, the demand for credit is taking off. Local banks have ramped up their operations for the last three or four years in preparation for increased competition from foreign rivals. As their efforts bear fruit, the potential for China’s payment cards market has never looked better.
Nowhere is this more so than in China’s emerging market for debit and credit cards. With more than 200m new cards issued last year alone, China’s total number of plastic cards broke though the one billion mark in 2006, with no sign of the pace abating. While a relatively tiny portion of this total—some 50 million—are currently credit cards, growth rates for the sector (both in terms of spending and transaction volumes) are now much higher than for the mass-market debit cards that form the bulk of cards in circulation. No surprise, then, that foreign banks are now eyeing this space for opportunity.
The main findings of our research are as follows:
Retail banks are very bullish on consumer banking in general—and credit cards in particular. For many of the retail banks surveyed for this report, credit cards are the main priority. When asked what products they believe hold the greatest prospects for China’s personal banking industry, retail bankers were most optimistic about credit cards and bank accounts. Fifty-fivepercent of study respondents believe the prospects for these consumer banking products are ‘highly promising’ over the next three years. Debit cards are seen as the next most promising item (45%), although these are directly linked to the prospects for basic bank accounts, followed by wealth and investment management (40%). In fact, respondents report overwhelmingly positive views for all aspects of the consumer banking sector. . But the outlook for profits is less certain. When it comes to profits in the credit card market, our survey respondents are less confident. Forty-three percent agree that it would be difficult to make a profit in the credit card market over the next three years, compared with 36% who remain uncertain and just 21% who believe it is possible. The key issue is tough competition for customers between local banks growing their market share and foreign rivals trying to establish a beach head in China. This competition inevitably leads to lower card fees, which keeps earnings low (or negative). In addition, banks are grappling with low rates of revolving credit on cards, resulting from a cultural aversion to accruing debt, together with low fees and interest rates that issuers are allowed to levy on merchants and card users. Infrastructure is key to growth in the cards market. According to the executives surveyed for this report, improving infrastructure – encompassing both merchants and ATMs—will play the biggest role in encouraging the increased acceptance of card payments in China. Fully 83% of retail bankers polled chose this as an essential requirement. This component scores far ahead of any other criteria, for example better collaboration between key stakeholders such as banks and payment processors (48%) or publicity campaigns (33%). When asked what the Chinese market needs to supporta payments infrastructure, half of the survey respondents selected better availability of consumer credit-history data. Merchant acquisition is a major hurdle. Convincing merchants to accept credit cards is a major challenge for banks. Eight out of ten retail bankers polled for this report say that local retailers’ preference for cash is either a ‘very significant’ or ‘significant’ barrier in operating cards and payment services. In part, this is because retailers don’t yet feel much pressure from customers to provide payment card facilities in a society where cash is traditionally preferred. Despite an opening financial market, much risk remains. More than half (53%) of bankers polled for this report selected political risk, relating to policy and regulation, as the biggest existing or potential risk associated with their firm’soperations in China. Retail bankers in particular listed licensing risk (chosen by 43%) as a major concern, second only to political risk, highlighting the difficulties associated with getting permission to expand into new regions or markets. Along with this, 41% of the respondents expressed a general concern about the outlook for China’s banking industry.
Much work needs to be done to promote a plastic card payment culture in China. More than anything else, a more extensive card network and infrastructure must be rolled out to promote consumer usage. Along with this, databases of consumers’ credit and transaction histories require expansion. In addition, Chinese consumers must be encouraged to make the switch from cash-based transactions to plastic cards. Despite these challenges, growth is already strong. And in cities such as Beijing, efforts to prepare for the 2008 Summer Olympic Games will help create an environment that supports card payments. Although foreign banks entering the market will have their work cut out, the opportunity is simply too big to ignore.
This research was conducted under Hatch Project 1012932 of the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture. The North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission (project #WM-0309), Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency (project #52537), and Liquid Spark, Inc. (Bryson City, NC, USA) provided funding for the experiments. Support for Bsal culture and maintenance in the LRS lab was provided by NSF grant IOS-1557634. We thank Dr. Bobby Simpson and Alex Anderson of the University of Tennessee for laboratory facilities. We thank Dr. Kevin Hamed and Tim Herman for help with collecting and breeding animals for this research. We also thank the following technical staff for their contributions: Christian Yarber, Ciara Sheets, Joseph Whipple, Jacob Wessels, Daniel Malagon, and Rajeev Kumar.
Table S1. Summary statistics for Wilcoxon tests comparing mean Bsal zoospore copies/µL on the skin of salamanders that died versus those that survived during challenge experiments for Eurycea wilderae from Georgia (GA), North Carolina (NC), and Virginia (VA), USA, and Pseudotriton ruber.
Table S2. Summary statistics for Kruskal Wallis tests comparing average percent food consumed by salamanders among Bsal zoospore doses 1 for Eurycea lucifuga, three populations (Georgia, North Carolina and Virginia, USA) of E. wilderae and Pseudotriton ruber.
Table S3. Summary statistics for Kruskal-Wallis tests comparing the average percentage of observations that salamanders were hidden under PVC cover objects among Bsal zoospore doses 1 for Eurycea lucifuga, three populations (Georgia, North Carolina and Virginia, USA) of E. wilderae and Pseudotriton ruber.
Figure S1. Kaplan–Meier survival curves for Pseudotriton ruber (a) and Eurycea wilderae from North Carolina (b), Georgia (c), and Virginia (d) among zoospore doses: control (black), 5x10 3 (green), 5x10 4 (yellow), 5x10 5 (pink) and 5x10 6 (red). Survival times censored at the termination of the experiment are shown with cross marks. Rates of mortality differed among doses using a log-rank significance test (n = 4 – 6 salamanders per dose).
Figure S2. Percentage of time that salamanders were observed under cover objects among zoospore doses Eurycea lucifuga (a), E. wilderae from Georgia (b), North Carolina (c) or Virginia (d), and Pseudotriton ruber (e). Kruskal-Wallis P-values are provided for testing differences in cover object use among doses. The bottom line extending from each boxplot is the 1-1.5*interquartile range (IQR), while the line extending from the upper portion of each box is the 3+1.5* IQR. The lower and upper portion of each box is the first and third quartile, the midline is the median, and points extending beyond the boxplot are outliers
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The authors acknowledge Mr. Lei Chen for assistance in preparing the figures and Dr. Karen Pepper for reviewing the manuscript. B.A. would like to thank the support provided by the China Scholarship Council (CSC) during his visiting period at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. This work was sponsored by the National Key R&D Program of China (grant nos. 2020YFA0908100 and 2018YFA0902804, the two grants provide equal support), the Joint Funds of the National Natural Science Foundation of China (key program no. U1932204), the National Institutes of Health of the USA (grant no. 1-R21-AI121669-01) and the Defense Threat Reduction Agency of the USA (grant no. HDTRA1-15-1-0050).
5 SYNTHESIZING ECOLOGY'S ROLE
- What organisms can facilitate microplastic formation from larger plastic debris, to what extent and under what circumstances?
- Once microplastics are present in a soil (regardless of source), what organisms contribute to their dispersal throughout the soil profile, either vertically (deeper into the ground) or horizontally (away from a point source such as a piece of large plastic debris)?
- To what extent are the shapes and sizes of microplastic particles influenced by microbial or animal biodegradation or physical damage due to passage through animal guts?
- Can organisms besides earthworms create circumstances of unique microplastic positioning in soil that could not arise through abiotic processes, and what are the consequences of this for other organisms?
- To what extent can one organism's effect on microplastic size, shape or distribution in soil alter their effect on other organisms?
Answering these questions will require inventive experimental designs, often involving multiple soil organisms simultaneously, as well as further refinement of methods to extract and identify microplastics in soil and invertebrate samples. Research into them could provide initial insight into organismal and community functional traits predictive of specific microplastic dynamic of interest. For example, heavily setaceous arthropods like pincushion millipedes (Polyxenida) and some entomobryid springtails may be more likely to disperse microplastics through the soil due to their setae more readily catching and retaining particles. Functional trait indices have been proposed by soil ecologists to assess ecosystem responses to disturbance and land use change (Pey et al., 2014 Vandewalle et al., 2010 ) and organisms’ contribution to ecosystem services (de Bello et al., 2010 Wood et al., 2015 ), and one could possibly be developed to predict how much a given soil community is likely to alter microplastic dynamics in that soil. Also, any given microbial or faunal behaviour that affects microplastics may itself be affected by other community processes more well-known to soil ecologists. In laboratory assays, dispersal of microplastics by springtails and predatory mites increased when both species were present compared to single species (Zhu, Bi, et al., 2018 ), likely due to altered movement behaviour of the two arthropods in each other's presence.
In conclusion, soil ecology must continue to expand its role alongside soil physics, chemistry and ecotoxicology in the burgeoning scientific effort to assess the threat microplastics pose to soils and terrestrial environments more broadly. Knowledge of soil organism ecology, behaviour and population dynamics has persistently lagged that of above-ground organisms (Eisenhauer et al., 2017 ). The effects of individual species on one another and on traits and behaviours that could affect their interactions with microplastics are poorly understood. However, research into the newly realized threat of microplastic pollution has the potential to increase knowledge of these fundamental areas if ecological aspects of microplastic contamination are taken into account in experimental designs and interpretations.