Marine aggregates incorporate particles from the environment, including microplastic (MP). The characteristics of MP in aggregates and the role of aggregates in linking MP with marine organisms, however, are poorly understood. To address these issues, we collected aggregates and blue mussels, Mytulis edulis, at Avery Point, CT, and analyzed samples with microspectrometers. Results indicate that over 70% of aggregates sampled harbored MP (1290 ± 1510 particles/m3). Fifteen polymer types were identified, with polypropylene, polyester and synthetic-cellulose accounting for 44.7%, 21.2% and 10.6%, respectively, of the total MP count. Over 90% of MP in aggregates were ≤1000 μm, suggesting that aggregations are a sink for this size fraction. Although size, shape, and chemical type of MP captured by mussels were representative of those found in aggregates, differences in the sizes of MP in pseudofeces, feces and digestive gland/gut were found, suggesting size-dependent particle ingestion. Over 40% of the MP particles were either rejected in pseudofeces or egested in feces. Our results are the first to identify a connection between field-collected marine aggregates and bivalves, and indicate that aggregates may play an important role in removing MP from the ocean surface and facilitating their transfer to marine food webs.
Shiye Zhao, J. Evan Ward, Meghan Danley, and Tracy J. Mincer, Environ. Sci. Technol., Article ASAP, August 29, 2018