Abundance and characterization of microplastics in the coastal waters of Tuscany (Italy): The application of the MSFD monitoring protocol in the Mediterranean Sea

Monitoring efforts are required to understand the sources, distribution and abundance of microplastic pollution. To verify the abundance of microplastics along the Tuscan coastal waters (Italy), water-column and surface samples were collected in two seasons across four transects at different distances to the coast (0.5, 5, 10 and 20 km), within the implementation of the European Marine Strategy Framework Directive. The results show an average concentration of 0.26 items/m3 in the water-column samples and 41.1 g/km2 and 69,161.3 items/km2 of floating microplastics, with an increase with the distance to the coast The seasonality and the sampling area do not affect the abundance of microplastics. The most abundant size class is 1–2.5 mm as fragments and sheets suggesting that fragmentation of larger polyethylene and polypropylene items could be the main source of microplastics. These data represent the application of a harmonized protocol to make the data on microplastics comparable and reliable.

Matteo Baini, Maria Cristina Fossi, Matteo Galli, Ilaria Caliani, Tommaso Campani, Maria Grazia Finoia, Cristina Panti, Marine Pollution Bulletin, Volume 133, August 2018, Pages 543–552

The article

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Marine litter disrupts ecological processes in reef systems

Marine litter (ML) contaminates essentially all global coastal and marine environments and drives multiple ecosystem-level effects. Although deleterious effects of ML on several organisms have been investigated in the last years, this information tends to be dispersed or underreported, even in marine biodiversity hotspots such as reef ecosystems. Two are the main goals of this paper: (i) to integrate and synthesize current knowledge on the interactions of ML and reef organisms, and (ii) to evaluate the multiple disruptions on the ecological processes in reef systems. We report here ML-driven ecological disruptions on 418 species across eight reef taxa, including interactions that were previously not addressed in detail, and evaluate their major conservation implications. These results can help raise awareness of global impacts on the world’s reefs by highlighting ML associations in different reef systems around the world, and can aid in ML input reduction and marine management.

Gustavo F. de Carvalho-Souza, Marcos Llope, Moacir S. Tinôco, Diego V. Medeiros, Rodrigo Maia-Nogueira, Cláudio L.S. Sampaio, Marine Pollution Bulletin, Volume 133, August 2018, Pages 464–471

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Styrene impairs normal embryo development in the Mediterranean mussel (Mytilus galloprovincialis)

This study analysed the effects of styrene, a main monomer in plastic manufacturing and acknowledged to be amongst the most common plastic leachates, on early embryo development of the Mediterranean mussel. Embryotoxicity tests showed that styrene impaired normal embryo development at concentrations (0.01 μg/L–1 mg/L) encompassing the environmental range. Occurrence of normal D-veligers was significantly reduced up to 40% of the total, and larval size was reduced of about 20%. D-veligers grown in the presence of styrene (0.1 and 10 μg/L) showed significant reduction of total Multixenobiotic resistance (MXR) efflux activity that was not apparently related to transcriptional expression of genes encoding P-glycoprotein (ABCB) and Mrp (ABCC), the two main ABC transporters of embryonal MXR system. Indeed, ABCB transcription was not affected by styrene, while ABCC was up-regulated. At these same concentrations, transcriptional profiles of 15 genes underlying key biological functions in embryo development and potential targets of adverse effects of styrene were analysed. Main transcriptional effects were observed for genes involved in shell biogenesis and lysosomal responses (down-regulation), and in neuroendocrine signaling and immune responses (up-regulation). On the whole, results indicate that styrene may affect mussel early development through dysregulation of gene transcription and suggest the possible conservation of styrene mode of action across bivalve life cycle and between bivalves and humans, as well as through unpredicted impacts on protective systems and on shell biogenesis.

Rajapaksha Haddokara Gedara Rasika Wathsala, Silvia Franzellitti, Morena Scaglione,
Elena Fabbri, Aquatic Toxicology, Volume 201, August 2018, Pages 58-65

The article

Identification of microplastics using Raman spectroscopy: Latest developments and future prospects

Widespread microplastic pollution is raising growing concerns as to its detrimental effects upon living organisms. A realistic risk assessment must stand on representative data on the abundance, size distribution and chemical composition of microplastics. Raman microscopy is an indispensable tool for the analysis of very small microplastics (<20 μm). Still, its use is far from widespread, in part due to drawbacks such as long measurement time and proneness to spectral distortion induced by fluorescence. This review discusses each drawback followed by a showcase of interesting and easily available solutions that contribute to faster and better identification of microplastics using Raman spectroscopy. Among discussed topics are: enhanced signal quality with better detectors and spectrum processing; automated particle selection for faster Raman mapping; comprehensive reference libraries for successful spectral matching. A last section introduces non-conventional Raman techniques (non-linear Raman, hyperspectral imaging, standoff Raman) which permit more advanced applications such as real-time Raman detection and imaging of microplastics.

Catarina F. Araujo, Mariela M. Nolasco, Antonio M.P. Ribeiro, Paulo J.A. Ribeiro-Claro, Water Research, Volume 142, 1 October 2018, Pages 426-440

The article

Uptake and transcriptional effects of polystyrene microplastics in larval stages of the Mediterranean mussel Mytilus galloprovincialis

The widespread occurrence of microplastics (MP) in the marine environment is cause of increasing concerns about the safety of the exposed ecosystems. Although the effects associated to the MP uptake have been studied in most marine taxa, the knowledge about their sub-lethal impacts on early life stages of marine species is still limited. Here, we investigated the uptake/retention of 3-μm polystyrene MP by early stages of the Mediterranean mussel Mytilus galloprovincialis, and the related effects on gut clearance, feeding efficiency, morphological and transcriptional parameters involved in embryo-larval development. Uptake measurements were performed on larvae at 48 h, 3, 6 and 9 days post fertilization (pf) after exposure to a range of 50–10,000 particles mL−1. At all tested pf periods, treatments resulted in a significant and linear increase of MP uptake with increasing concentrations, though levels measured at 48 h pf were significantly lower compared to 3–9 d pf. Ingested MP were retained up to 192 h in larvae’s gut, suggesting a physical impact on digestive functions. No change was noted between the consumption of microalgae Nannochloropsis oculata by larvae when administered alone or in the presence of an identical concentration (2000 items mL−1) of MP. The exposure to 50–10,000 MP mL−1 did not alter the morphological development of mussel embryos; however, transcriptional alterations were observed at 50 and 500 MP mL−1, including the up-regulation of genes involved in shell biogenesis (extrapallial protein; carbonic anhydrase; chitin synthase) and immunomodulation (myticin C; mytilin B), and the inhibition of those coding for lysosomal enzymes (hexosaminidase; β-glucorinidase; catepsin-L). In conclusion, though not highlighting morphological or feeding abnormalities, data from this study revealed the onset of physical and transcriptional impairments induced by MP in mussel larvae, indicating sub-lethal impacts which could increase their vulnerability toward further environmental stressors.

Marco Capolupo, Silvia Franzellitti, Paola Valbonesi, Claudia Sanz Lanzas, Elena Fabbri, Environmental Pollution, Volume 241, October 2018, Pages 1038–1047

The article

Hazardous Chemicals in Plastics in Marine Environments: International Pellet Watch

Marine plastic debris, including microplastics <5 mm, contain additives as well as hydrophobic chemicals sorbed from surrounding seawater. A volunteer-based global monitoring programme entitled International Pellet Watch (IPW) is utilizing the sorptive nature of plastics, more specifically of beached polyethylene (PE) pellets, in order to measure persistent organic pollutants (POPs) throughout the world. Spatial patterns of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and organochlorine pesticides have been revealed. Original data of IPW show large piece-to-piece variability in PCB concentrations in pellets collected at each location. This is explained by the combination of slow sorption/desorption and large variabilities of speed and route of floating plastics. The sporadically high concentrations of POPs, both sorbed chemicals and hydrophobic additives, are frequently observed in pellets and the other microplastics in open ocean and remote islands. This poses a chemical threat to marine ecosystems in remote areas.

Rei Yamashita, Kosuke Tanaka, Bee Geok Yeo, Hideshige Takada, Jan A. van Franeker, Megan Dalton, Eric Dale, chapter In: The Handbook of Environmental Chemistry. Springer, pp 1-21,

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Sorption of fluorescent polystyrene microplastic particles to edible seaweed Fucus vesiculosus

Increased global demands for food have raised interest for seaweed as a healthy and sustainable food source. At the same time, the large amounts of microplastic in the oceans have raised concern in relation to pollution of seafood including sea vegetables. The aim of this study was to examine sorption of fluorescent polystyrene (PS) microplastic particles to edible macroalga (seaweed) Fucus vesiculosus, and to investigate to what extent adsorbed PS particles could be washed off, using an industrial relevant method. PS microplastic particles (diameter of 20 μm) were used in a concentration of 2.65 mg L−1 (corresponding to 597 particles per mL) in filtrated seawater (50 mL) to treat F. vesiculosus distal tips in blue cap flasks (100 mL) placed in a rotary box for 2 h. Results showed sorption of PS microplastic particles to F. vesiculosus analysed by microscopy and a significant reduction of 94.5% by washing. These results were based on high microplastic concentrations, not comparable to natural conditions/concentrations. Nonetheless, this study provides methodological and mechanistic insights into procedures for investigating the sorption of microplastics to seaweed, for which there is currently no established standardised method.

Kasper Bjerrum Sundbæk, Ida Due Würtzner Koch, Clara Greve Villaro, Niclas Spangegaard Rasmussen, Susan Løvstad Holdt, Nanna B. Hartmann, 6th Congress of the International Society for Applied Phycology, Journal of Applied Phycology, pp 1–5

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