The Impact of Microplastic Particles on Population Dynamics of Predator and Prey: Implication of the Lotka-Volterra Model

Qi Huang, Yuyang Lin, Qiyin Zhong, Fei Ma, Yixin Zhang*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Citations (Scopus)


Microplastic particles are widely distributed in a variety of ecosystems and can be transferred to predators along a food chain after being ingested by prey. However, how microplastic particles affect prey and predator populations is not fully understood. In this study, using the Lotka-Volterra model, we theoretically investigated predator-prey population dynamics in terms of toxicological response intensity (strength to population growth rate) to microplastic particles, and examined the negative effects on prey feeding ability and predator performance due to microplastic particles. Results of numerical simulations indicate the critical properties of the predator-prey system in response to microplastic particles: (i) predators are more vulnerable than prey under exposure to microplastic particles; (ii) the effect of microplastic particles on prey and predator population growths can be negligible when toxicological response intensities of prey and predator are small; (iii) this system is prey dependent for predator functional response, whose stability highly relies on the density of prey; (iv) the reduced feeding capacity of prey and predator induced by microplastic particles does not significantly affect the population dynamics of the predator-prey system. Moreover, our analysis suggests that dynamic Lotka-Volterra models can play a vital role in predicting ecological impacts of microplastic particles on predator-prey population dynamics.

Original languageEnglish
Article number4500
JournalScientific Reports
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2020

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