Freshwater’s macro microplastic problem

Like in the oceans, the bulk of the pollution in rivers and lakes is not in the form of plastic bottles and other large pieces, but tiny pieces called microplastics that would be hard to spot. “Three quarters of what we take out of the Great Lakes are less than a millimeter in size,” she says. “It’s basically the size of a period of a sentence.” These plastics are concerning to scientists because they are being ingested by a variety of aquatic organisms. (…) (pbs.org, 11/05/2017)

The news

Microplastics as contaminants in commercially important seafood species

The ingestion of microplastic fragments, spheres, and fibers by marine mollusks, crustaceans, and fish, including a number of commercially important species, appears to be a widespread and pervasive phenomenon. Evidence is also growing for direct impacts of microplastic ingestion on physiology, reproductive success and survival of exposed marine organisms, and transfer through food webs, although the ecological implications are not yet known. Concerns also remain over the capacity for microplastics to act as vectors for harmful chemical pollutants, including plastic additives and persistent organic pollutants, although their contribution must be evaluated alongside other known sources. The potential for humans, as top predators, to consume microplastics as contaminants in seafood is very real, and its implications for health need to be considered. An urgent need also exists to extend the geographical scope of studies of microplastic contamination in seafood species to currently underrepresented areas, and to finalize and adopt standardized methods and quality-assurance protocols for the isolation, identification, and quantification of microplastic contaminants from biological tissues. Such developments would enable more robust investigation of spatial and temporal trends, thereby contributing further evidence as a sound basis for regulatory controls. Despite the existence of considerable uncertainties and unknowns, there is already a compelling case for urgent actions to identify, control, and, where possible, eliminate key sources of both primary and secondary microplastics before they reach the marine environment.

D. Santillo, K. Miller, P. Johnston, Integrated Environmental Assessment and Management, Volume 13, Number 3, pp. 516–521, May 2017

The article

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

Plastics in the North Atlantic garbage patch: A boat-microbe for hitchhikers and plastic degraders

Plastic is a broad name given to different polymers with high molecular weight that impact wildlife. Their fragmentation leads to a continuum of debris sizes (meso to microplastics) entrapped in gyres and colonized by microorganisms. In the present work, the structure of eukaryotes, bacteria and Archaea was studied by a metabarcoding approach, and statistical analysis associated with network building was used to define a core microbiome at the plastic surface. Most of the bacteria significantly associated with the plastic waste originated from non-marine ecosystems, and numerous species can be considered as hitchhikers, whereas others act as keystone species (e.g., Rhodobacterales, Rhizobiales, Streptomycetales and Cyanobacteria) in the biofilm. The chemical analysis provides evidence for a specific colonization of the polymers. Alphaproteobacteria and Gammaproteobacteria significantly dominated mesoplastics consisting of poly(ethylene terephthalate) and polystyrene. Polyethylene was also dominated by these bacterial classes and Actinobacteria. Microplastics were made of polyethylene but differed in their crystallinity, and the majorities were colonized by Betaproteobacteria. Our study indicated that the bacteria inhabiting plastics harboured distinct metabolisms from those present in the surrounding water. For instance, the metabolic pathway involved in xenobiotic degradation was overrepresented on the plastic surface.

Debroas Didier, Mone Anne, Ter Halle Alexandra, Science of The Total Environment, Volumes 599–600, 1 December 2017, Pages 1222–1232

The article

Seasonal and spatial variations of marine litter on the south-eastern Black Sea coast

The south-eastern Black Sea coast in Turkey was evaluated for marine litter composition and density covering nine beaches during four seasons. The marine litter (> 2 cm in size), was collected from the coast and categorized into material and usage categories. The data analysis showed that plastic was the most abundant litter (≥ 61.65%) by count and weight followed by styrofoam and fabric. The marine litter density ranged from 0.03 to 0.58 with a mean (± SD) of 0.16 ± 0.02 items/m2 by count. Based on weight, it varied between 0.44 and 14.74 g/m2 with 3.35 ± 1.63. The east side had a higher marine litter density than the west side with significant differences between beaches. The variations due to different seasons were not significant for any beach. The results of this study should provide baseline information about the coastal marine pollution and will assist the mitigation strategies.

Yahya Terzi, Kadir Seyhan, Marine Pollution Bulletin, Available online 10 May 2017, In Press

The article

Floating marine litter as a raft for drifting voyages for Planes minutus (Crustacea: Decapoda: Grapsidae) and Liocarcinus navigator (Crustacea: Decapoda: Polybiidae)

The Columbus crab Planes minutus and Arch-fronted swimming crab Liocarcinus navigator, within their distribution ranges in the Mediterranean, were found rafted on plastic macro-litter floating on the open south Adriatic. While P. minutus was recorded from inanimate flotsam outside of the Mediterranean, L. navigator is herein reported for the first time on floating marine litter. The role of floating litter as habitat or as a dispersal agent for marine invertebrates has received quite attention however, records of decapod crabs drifting on litter has been relatively sparse. Our results suggests that vast quantities of floating debris, comprised primarily of non-biodegradable plastic polymers, probably will augment natural floating substrates in the marine environment, potentially facilitating the spread of invasive species. The dispersion of rafting crabs through floating debris should be investigated given the high potential ecological risk of invasion by exotic species due to the increase in waste production (ecological risk assessment).

P. Tutman, K. Kapiris, M. Kirinčić, A. Pallaoro, Marine Pollution Bulletin, Available online 14 May 2017, In Press

The article

Is the feeding type related with the content of microplastics in intertidal fish gut?

Microplastics pollution is a growing global concern that affects all aquatic ecosystems. Microplastics in the environment can be in the form of fibers and/or particles, being the former the most abundant in the marine environment, representing up to 95% of total plastics. The aim of this work was to compare the content of microplastics among intertidal fish with different feeding type.

Our results show that omnivorous fish presented a higher amount of microplastic fibers than registered in herbivores and carnivores. Moreover, lower condition factors (K) were found in omnivorous specimens with higher microplastic content. We hypothesized that the type of feeding resulted in different microplastic ingestion, with species with wider range of food sources as omnivores with higher rates. Futures studies carried out to evaluate the biological impacts of microplastics on marine organisms, and microplastics cycling on the marine environment should consider the type of feeding of the studied species.

Ricardo Mizraji, Camila Ahrendt, Diego Perez-Venegas and al., Marine Pollution Bulletin, Volume 116, Issues 1–2, 15 March 2017, Pages 498–500