Anthropogenic fibres in the Baltic Sea water column: Field data, laboratory and numerical testing of their motion

Distribution of microplastics particles (MPs) in the water column is investigated on the base of 95 water samples collected from various depths in the Baltic Sea Proper in 2015–2016. Fibres are the prevalent type of MPs: 7% of the samples contained small films; about 40% had (presumably) paint flakes, while 63% contained coloured fibres in concentrations from 0.07 to 2.6 items per litre. Near-surface and near-bottom layers (defined as one tenth of the local depth) have 3–5 times larger fibre concentrations than intermediate layers. Laboratory tests demonstrated that sinking behaviour of a small and flexible fibre can be complicated, with 4-fold difference in sinking velocity for various random fibres’ curvature during its free fall. Numerical tests on transport of fibres in the Baltic Sea Proper were performed using HIROMB reanalysis data (2007) for the horizontal velocity field and laboratory order-of-magnitude estimates for the sinking velocity of fibres. The model takes into account (i) motion of fibres together with currents, (ii) their very slow sinking, and (iii) their low re-suspension threshold. Sensitivity of the final distribution of fibres to variations of those parameters is examined. These experiments are the first step towards modelling of transport of fibres in marine environment and they seem to reproduce the main features of fibres distribution quite well.

A. Bagaev, A. Mizyuk, L. Khatmullina, I. Isachenko, I. Chubarenko, Science of The Total Environment, Volumes 599–600, 1 December 2017, Pages 560–571

The article


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