High-levels of microplastic pollution in a large, remote, mountain lake

Despite the large and growing literature on microplastics in the ocean, little information exists on microplastics in freshwater systems. This study is the first to evaluate the abundance, distribution, and composition of pelagic microplastic pollution in a large, remote, mountain lake. We quantified pelagic microplastics and shoreline anthropogenic debris in Lake Hovsgol, Mongolia. With an average microplastic density of 20,264 particles km−2, Lake Hovsgol is more heavily polluted with microplastics than the more developed Lakes Huron and Superior in the Laurentian Great Lakes. Fragments and films were the most abundant microplastic types; no plastic microbeads and few pellets were observed. Household plastics dominated the shoreline debris and were comprised largely of plastic bottles, fishing gear, and bags. Microplastic density decreased with distance from the southwestern shore, the most populated and accessible section of the park, and was distributed by the prevailing winds. These results demonstrate that without proper waste management, low-density populations can heavily pollute freshwater systems with consumer plastics.

Christopher M. Free, Olaf P. Jensen, Sherri A. Mason, Marcus Eriksen, Nicholas J. Williamson, Bazartseren Boldgiv, Marine Pollution Bulletin, Vol. 85 (1), Pages 156-163, 08/2014

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