Three-dimensional distribution of plastic pellets in sandy beaches : shifting paradigms

Plastic pellets are worldwide contaminants that accumulate in the ocean, especially in sandy beaches, where their historic standing-stock quantification relies on surface sediment samples. We demonstrated these particles present a three-dimensional instead of a simple along-across shore distribution, being found as deep as 2.0 m, with surface layers accounting for, 10% of the total abundance in the sediment column. This gradient seemed to be more related to oceanographic rather than anthropic processes, suggesting a general pattern whose applicability to microplastics and sedimentary environments as a whole should be investigated. This poses criticism in the exactness of standing-stock records and demands urgent discussion of sampling protocols.

Turra, Alexander, Manzano, Aruana B., Dias, Rodolfo Jasao S. and al., Nature Scientific Reports, Volume 4, 7 pages, March 2014

Open access article

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