Distribution patterns of microplastics within the plankton of a tropical estuary

The Goiana Estuary was studied regarding the seasonal and spatial variations of microplastics (<5 mm) and their quantification relative to the zooplankton. The total density (n 100 m−3) of microplastics represented half of the total fish larvae density and was comparable to fish eggs density. Soft, hard plastics, threads and paint chips were found in the samples (n=216). Their origins are probably the river basin, the sea and fisheries (including the lobster fleet). In some occasions, the amount of microplastics surpassed that of Ichthyoplankton. The highest amount of microplastics was observed during the late rainy season, when the environment is under influence of the highest river flow, which induces the runoff of plastic fragments to the lower estuary. The density of microplastics in the water column will determine their bioavailability to planktivorous organisms, and then to larger predators, possibly promoting the transfer of microplastic between trophic levels. These findings are important for better informing researchers in future works and as basic information for managerial actions.

A.R.A. Lima, M.F. Costa, M. Barletta, Environmental Research, Volume 132, Pages 146–155, July 2014

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