Screening for microplastic particles in plankton samples: How to integrate marine litter assessment into existing monitoring programs?

Microplastics (MPs) are a newly recognized type of environmental pollution in aquatic systems; however no monitoring of these contaminants is conducted, mostly due to the lack of routine quantification. In the net samples collected with a 90-μm WP2 net, pelagic MP abundance was quantified by light microscopy and evaluated as a function of inshore–offshore gradient, depth, and season; the same samples were used for zooplankton analysis. The MP abundance was ∼102–104 particles m−3, with no significant inshore–offshore gradient during summer but increasing offshore in winter. MP abundance in deeper layers was positively affected by zooplankton abundance in the upper layers and significantly lower during winter compared to summer. These findings indicate heterogeneity of MP distribution due to biotic and abiotic factors and suggest that samples collected for other purposes can be used for quantification of MPs in the Baltic Sea, thus facilitating integration of MP assessment into existing monitoring schemes.

Elena Gorokhova, Marine Pollution Bulletin, Volume 99, Issues 1–2, Pages 271–275, 15 October 2015

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