Effects of Silver Nanoparticle Exposure on Germination and Early Growth of Eleven Wetland Plants

Liyan Yin, Benjamin P. Colman, Bonnie M. McGill, Justin P. Wright, Emily S. Bernhardt

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

318 Scopus citations


The increasing commercial production of engineered nanoparticles (ENPs) has led to concerns over the potential adverse impacts of these ENPs on biota in natural environments. Silver nanoparticles (AgNPs) are one of the most widely used ENPs and are expected to enter natural ecosystems. Here we examined the effects of AgNPs on germination and growth of eleven species of common wetland plants. We examined plant responses to AgNP exposure in simple pure culture experiments (direct exposure) and for seeds planted in homogenized field soils in a greenhouse experiment (soil exposure). We compared the effects of two AgNPs-20-nm polyvinylpyrrolidine-coated silver nanoparticles (PVP-AgNPs) and 6-nm gum arabic coated silver nanoparticles (GA-AgNPs)-to the effects of AgNO3 exposure added at equivalent Ag concentrations (1, 10 or 40 mg Ag L-1). In the direct exposure experiments, PVP-AgNP had no effect on germination while 40 mg Ag L-1 GA-AgNP exposure significantly reduced the germination rate of three species and enhanced the germination rate of one species. In contrast, 40 mg Ag L-1 AgNO3 enhanced the germination rate of five species. In general root growth was much more affected by Ag exposure than was leaf growth. The magnitude of inhibition was always greater for GA-AgNPs than for AgNO3 and PVP-AgNPs. In the soil exposure experiment, germination effects were less pronounced. The plant growth response differed by taxa with Lolium multiflorum growing more rapidly under both AgNO3 and GA-AgNP exposures and all other taxa having significantly reduced growth under GA-AgNP exposure. AgNO3 did not reduce the growth of any species while PVP-AgNPs significantly inhibited the growth of only one species. Our findings suggest important new avenues of research for understanding the fate and transport of NPs in natural media, the interactions between NPs and plants, and indirect and direct effects of NPs in mixed plant communities.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere47674
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 16 2012


Dive into the research topics of 'Effects of Silver Nanoparticle Exposure on Germination and Early Growth of Eleven Wetland Plants'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this