Marine litter in the Nordic Seas: Distribution composition and abundance

Litter has been found in all marine environments and is accumulating in seabirds and mammals in the Nordic Seas. These ecosystems are under pressure from climatic change and fisheries while the human population is small. The marine landscapes in the area range from shallow fishing banks to deep-sea canyons. We present density, distribution and composition of litter from the first large-scale mapping of sea bed litter in arctic and subarctic waters. Litter was registered from 1778 video transects, of which 27% contained litter. The background density of litter in the Barents Sea and Norwegian Sea is 202 and 279 items/km2 respectively, and highest densities were found close to coast and in canyons. Most of the litter originated from the fishing industry and plastic was the second most common litter. Background levels were comparable to European records and areas with most littering had higher densities than in Europe.

Lene Buhl-Mortensen, Pål Buhl-Mortensen, Marine Pollution Bulletin, Available online 31 August 2017, In Press, Corrected Proof

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New Study Reveals Global Water Supply Contaminated by Microplastic Fibers

Microplastics — extremely small pieces (less than 5 mm) of plastic debris resulting from the disposal and breakdown of consumer products and industrial waste — have been found in tap water around the globe, according to a new report by Orb Media, a D.C.-based nonprofit digital newsroom. The discovery has led to a call from the scientific community for urgent research on microplastics’ implications for human health.

Designed by Dr. Sherri Mason of the State University of New York at Fredonia and Elizabeth Wattenberg at the University of Minnesota, School of Public Health, the tap water study screened 159 half liter drinking water samples from 14 countries: Cuba, Ecuador, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Ireland, Italy, Lebanon, Slovakia, Switzerland, Uganda, the UK and the US. Overall, 83 percent of the samples were contaminated with plastic fibers.

European countries demonstrated the lowest level of contamination, though this was still 72 percent. The average number of microplastics found in each 500ml sample ranged from 1.9 in Europe to 4.8 in the US. (…) (sustainablebrands.com, 11/09/2017, Orb media)

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Orb media – Invisibles plastics

Chemoreception drives plastic consumption in a hard coral

The drivers behind microplastic (up to 5 mm in diameter) consumption by animals are uncertain and impacts on foundational species are poorly understood. We investigated consumption of weathered, unfouled, biofouled, pre-production and microbe-free National Institute of Standards plastic by a scleractinian coral that relies on chemosensory cues for feeding. Experiment one found that corals ingested many plastic types while mostly ignoring organic-free sand, suggesting that plastic contains phagostimulents. Experiment two found that corals ingested more plastic that wasn’t covered in a microbial biofilm than plastics that were biofilmed. Additionally, corals retained ~ 8% of ingested plastic for 24 h or more and retained particles appeared stuck in corals, with consequences for energetics, pollutant toxicity and trophic transfer. The potential for chemoreception to drive plastic consumption in marine taxa has implications for conservation.

A. S. Allen, A. C. Seymour, D. Rittschof, Marine Pollution Bulletin, Available online 22 July 2017, In Press, Corrected Proof

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Mountains to the sea: River study of plastic and non-plastic microfiber pollution in the northeast USA

Aquatic environments are sinks for anthropogenic contamination, whether chemical or solid pollutants. Microfibers shed from clothing and other textiles contribute to this problem. These can be plastic or non-plastic origin. Our aim was to investigate the presence and distribution of both types of anthropogenic microfibers along the length of the Hudson River, USA. Surface grab samples were collected and filtered through a 0.45 μm filter paper. Abundance of fibers was determined after subtraction of potential contamination. 233 microfibers were recorded in 142 samples, averaging 0.98 microfibers L− 1. Subsequent micro-FTIR showed half of the fibers were plastic while the other half were non-plastic, but of anthropogenic origin. There was no relationship between fiber abundance, wastewater treatment plant location or population density. Extrapolating from this data, and using available hydrographic data, 34.4% of the Hudson River’s watershed drainage area contributes an average 300 million anthropogenic microfibers into the Atlantic Ocean per day.

R. Miller, A. J. R. Watts, B. O. Winslow and al., Marine Pollution Bulletin, Available online 22 July 2017, In Press, Corrected Proof

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Effects of microplastics on sessile invertebrates in the eastern coast of Thailand: An approach to coastal zone conservation

This study assessed the microplastic contamination of 3 most abundant sessile and intertidal invertebrates (Rock Oyster: Saccostrea forskalii, Striped Barnacle: Balanus amphitrite, Periwinkle: Littoraria sp.) in 3 beaches of the eastern coasts of Thailand. The results showed a significant accumulation of microplastics in the invertebrates at rates of 0.2–0.6 counts/g indicating higher pollution levels along the coastline. Filter feeding organisms showed comparatively higher accumulation rates of microplastics. Thus, contaminated bivalves pose potential health risks for seafood consumers. The plastic pollutant prevalence in sessile and intertidal communities was corresponded with pollution characteristics of contaminated beach habitats where they live. Thus, bivalves, gastropods and barnacles can be used as indicators for contamination of microplastics in the areas. This study also demonstrated the need for controlling plastic pollution in Thai coastal areas.

Gajahin Gamage Nadeeka Thushari, Jayan Duminda Mahesh Senevirathna, Amararatne Yakupitiyage, Suchana Chavanich, Marine Pollution Bulletin, Available online 29 July 2017, In Press, Corrected Proof

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In situ elemental characterisation of marine microplastics by portable XRF

The performance of a portable x-ray fluorescence spectrometer configured in a test stand and coupled to a laptop has been evaluated for the determination of various elements (including Br, Cd, Cl, Cr, Cu, Fe, Pb and Zn) in beached microplastics. Under laboratory conditions, analysis of samples that covered the 3-mm x-ray beam returned concentrations that, on average, were within 20% of concentrations determined by ICP following acid digestion. Analysis of progressively smaller offcuts (to < 1 mm) resulted in corresponding concentrations that were comparable to those determined in original samples but errors and detection limits that progressively increased. When the configuration was deployed in situ with two operators, up to 35 microplastics counted for 60 s each could be processed per hour. Advantages of immediate measurements include the development of an iterative study strategy, rapid compliance-evaluation, and identification of specific materials for further characterisation or study in the laboratory.

Andrew Turner, Marine Pollution Bulletin, Available online 2 August 2017, In Press, Corrected Proof

Fate and stability of polyamide-associated bacterial assemblages after their passage through the digestive tract of the blue mussel Mytilus edulis

We examined whether bacterial assemblages inhabiting the synthetic polymer polyamide are selectively modified during their passage through the gut of Mytilus edulis in comparison to the biopolymer chitin with focus on potential pathogens. Specifically, we asked whether bacterial biofilms remained stable over a prolonged period of time and whether polyamide could thus serve as a vector for potential pathogenic bacteria. Bacterial diversity and identity were analysed by 16S rRNA gene fingerprints and sequencing of abundant bands. The experiments revealed that egested particles were rapidly colonised by bacteria from the environment, but the taxonomic composition of the biofilms on polyamide and chitin did not differ. No potential pathogens could be detected exclusively on polyamide. However, after 7 days of incubation of the biofilms in seawater, the species richness of the polyamide assemblage was lower than that of the chitin assemblage, with yet unknown impacts on the functioning of the biofilm community.

Katharina Kesy, Alexander Hentzsch, Franziska Klaeger, Sonja Oberbeckmann, Stephanie Mothes, & Matthias Labrenz, Marine Pollution Bulletin, Available online 12 August 2017, In Press, Corrected Proof

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