Microplastics in sea coastal zone: Lessons learned from the Baltic amber

Baltic amber, adored for its beauty already in Homer’s Odyssey (ca. 800 B.C.E), has its material density close to that of wide-spread plastics like polyamide, polystyrene, or acrylic. Migrations of amber stones in the sea and their massive washing ashore have been monitored by Baltic citizens for ages. Based on the collected information, we present the hypothesis on the behaviour of microplastic particles in sea coastal zone. Fresh-to-strong winds generate surface waves, currents and roll-structures, whose joint effect washes ashore from the underwater slope both amber stones and plastics – and carries them back to the sea in a few days. Analysis of underlying hydrophysical processes suggests that sea coastal zone under stormy winds plays a role of a mill for plastics, and negatively buoyant pieces seem to repeatedly migrate between beaches and underwater slopes until they are broken into small enough fragments that can be transported by currents to deeper areas and deposited out of reach of stormy waves. Direct observations on microplastics migrations are urged to prove the hypothesis.

Irina Chubarenko, Natalia Stepanova, Environmental Pollution, Volume 224, May 2017, Pages 243–254

The article

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