Tibetan Plateau is known as the world’s third pole, which is characterized by a low population density with very limited human activities. Tibetan Plateau possesses the greatest numbers of high-altitude inland lakes in the world. However, no information is currently available on the characteristic of microplastic pollution in those lakes within this remote area. In this work, lakeshore sediments from four lakes within the Siling Co basin in northern Tibet were sampled and examined for microplastics (<5 mm). Microplastics were detected in six out of seven sampling sites with abundances ranging from 8 ± 14 to 563 ± 1219 items/m2. Riverine input might have contributed to the high abundance of microplastics observed in this remote area. Morphological features suggest that microplastics are derived from the breakdown of daily used plastic products. Polyethylene, polypropylene, polystyrene, polyethylene terephthalate, and polyvinyl chloride were identified from the microplastic samples using laser Raman spectroscopy, and oxidative and mechanical weathering textures were observed on the surface of microplastics using scanning electron microscope. These results demonstrate the presence of microplastics even for inland lakes in remote areas under very low human impact, and microplastic pollution can be a global issue.
Kai Zhang, Jing Su, Xiong Xiong and al., Environmental Pollution, Volume 219, December 2016, Pages 450–455