This study examines the distribution, abundance and characteristics of surface micro- and mesoplastic debris in the Western Mediterranean Sea. 41 samples were collected in 2011 (summer) and 2012 (summer). Results, firstly, revealed that micro- (<5 mm) and mesoplastic debris were widely and uniformly distributed in this area with average concentrations of 130,000 parts/km2 and 5700 parts/km2, respectively. Importantly, a strong correlation between micro- and mesoplastic concentrations was identified. Secondly, a classification based on the shape and appearance of microplastics indicated the predominant presence of fragments (73 %) followed by thin films (14 %). Thirdly, the average mass ratio of microplastic to dry organic matter has been measured at 0.5, revealing a significant presence of microplastics in comparison to plankton. Finally, a correction method was applied in order to correct wind mixing effect on microplastics’ vertical distribution. This data allows for a comprehensive view, for the first time, of the spatial distribution and nature of plastic debris in the Western Mediterranean Sea.
Florian Faure, Camille Saini, Gaël Potter, François Galgani, Luiz Felippe de Alencastro, Pascal Hagmann, Environmental Science and Pollution Research, 8 pages, April 2015