Persistent organic pollutants in selected fishes of the Gulf of Finland

Fish samples of Baltic herring, sprat, flounder, perch, salmon, and river lamprey were collected from the Gulf of Finland in 2013 and 2014 with the aim to get an overview of the occurrence of pollutants in fish caught in Estonian waters. The content of non-dioxin-like polychlorinated biphenyls (ndl PCBs), polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs), organic tin (OT) and perfluorocompounds (PFAS) are examined and discussed in the study. The results revealed that potentially higher content of organo-tin compounds, perfluorocompounds and polybrominated diphenyl ethers in Baltic herring, salmon and river lamprey may cause concern regarding human exposure.

It is important to link pollutant content to lipid content of fish taking into account their seasonal variation in different age classes.

Leili Järv, Hannu Kiviranta, Jani Koponen and al., Journal of Marine Systems, Volume 171, July 2017, Pages 129–133

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Abundance and composition of near surface microplastics and plastic debris in the Stockholm Archipelago, Baltic Sea

We collected plastic debris in the Stockholm Archipelago using a manta trawl, and additionally along a transect in the Baltic Sea from the island of Gotland to Stockholm in a citizen science study. The samples were concentrated by filtration and organic material was digested using hydrogen peroxide. Suspected plastic material was isolated by visual sorting and 59 of these were selected to be characterized with Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy. Polypropylene and polyethylene were the most abundant plastics identified among the samples (53% and 24% respectively). We found nearly ten times higher abundance of plastics near central Stockholm than in offshore areas (4.2 × 105 plastics km−2 compared to 4.7 × 104 plastics km−2). The abundance of plastic debris near Stockholm was similar to urban areas in California, USA, and the overall abundance in the Stockholm Archipelago was similar to plastic abundance reported in the northwestern Mediterranean Sea.

Berit Gewert, Martin Ogonowski, Andreas Barth, Matthew MacLeod, Marine Pollution Bulletin, Vol. 120 (1-2), 15 July 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

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Bioturbation transports secondary microplastics to deeper layers in soft marine sediments of the northern Baltic Sea

Microplastics (MPs) are observed to be present on the seafloor ranging from coastal areas to deep seas. Because bioturbation alters the distribution of natural particles on inhabited soft bottoms, a mesocosm experiment with common benthic invertebrates was conducted to study their effect on the distribution of secondary MPs (different-sized pieces of fishing line < 1 mm). During the study period of three weeks, the benthic community increased MP concentration in the depth of 1.7–5.1 cm in the sediment. The experiment revealed a clear vertical gradient in MP distribution with their abundance being highest in the uppermost parts of the sediment and decreasing with depth. The Baltic clam Macoma balthica was the only study animal that ingested MPs. This study highlights the need to further examine the vertical distribution of MPs in natural sediments to reliably assess their abundance on the seafloor as well as their potential impacts on benthic communities.

Pinja Näkki, Outi Setälä, Maiju Lehtiniemi, Marine Pollution Bulletin, Volume 119, Issue 1, 15 June 2017, Pages 255–261

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Sources and fate of microplastics in marine and beach sediments of the Southern Baltic Sea-a preliminary study

Microplastics’ (particles size ≤5 mm) sources and fate in marine bottom and beach sediments of the brackish are strongly polluted Baltic Sea have been investigated. Microplastics were extracted using sodium chloride (1.2 g cm−3). Their qualitative identification was conducted using micro-Fourier-transform infrared spectroscopy (μFT-IR). Concentration of microplastics varied from 25 particles kg−1 d.w. at the open sea beach to 53 particles kg−1 d.w. at beaches of strongly urbanized bay. In bottom sediments, microplastics concentration was visibly lower compared to beach sediments (0–27 particles kg−1 d.w.) and decreased from the shore to the open, deep-sea regions. The most frequent microplastics dimensions ranged from 0.1 to 2.0 mm, and transparent fibers were predominant. Polyester, which is a popular fabrics component, was the most common type of microplastic in both marine bottom (50%) and beach sediments (27%). Additionally, poly(vinyl acetate) used in shipbuilding as well as poly(ethylene-propylene) used for packaging were numerous in marine bottom (25% of all polymers) and beach sediments (18% of all polymers). Polymer density seems to be an important factor influencing microplastics circulation. Low density plastic debris probably recirculates between beach sediments and seawater in a greater extent than higher density debris. Therefore, their deposition is potentially limited and physical degradation is favored. Consequently, low density microplastics concentration may be underestimated using current methods due to too small size of the debris. This influences also the findings of qualitative research of microplastics which provide the basis for conclusions about the sources of microplastics in the marine environment.

Bożena Graca, Karolina Szewc, Danuta Zakrzewska, Anna Dołęga, Magdalena Szczerbowska-Boruchowska, Environ Sci Pollut Res (2017) 24: 7650

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Marine litter abundance and distribution on beaches on the Isle of Rügen considering the influence of exposition, morphology and recreational activities

The abundance, weight and composition of marine debris were determined at the northwest coast of the Isle of Rügen in 2015. A total number of 1115 macrolitter items were registered, resulting in an abundance of 304 ± 88.96 items per 100 m of beach length and therefore being greater than the abundances found for other beaches at the Baltic Sea. Macrolitter items were predominantly composed of plastic, on average 83%. The four beaches under investigation have different exposition as well as touristic levels. The differing influence of wind and water currents as well as recreational activities on the macrolitter at these beaches was detectable. The distribution of items within a beach segment was analyzed by implementing D-GPS and drone aerial photography. The results of this analysis suggested that the identity of the substrate as well as the presence of vegetation are both major influencing factors in the macrolitter distribution.

Elena Hengstmann, Dennis Gräwe, Matthias Tamminga, Elke Kerstin Fischer, Marine Pollution Bulletin, Volume 115, Issues 1–2, 15 February 2017, Pages 297–306

The article

Microplastics in sea coastal zone: Lessons learned from the Baltic amber

Baltic amber, adored for its beauty already in Homer’s Odyssey (ca. 800 B.C.E), has its material density close to that of wide-spread plastics like polyamide, polystyrene, or acrylic. Migrations of amber stones in the sea and their massive washing ashore have been monitored by Baltic citizens for ages. Based on the collected information, we present the hypothesis on the behaviour of microplastic particles in sea coastal zone. Fresh-to-strong winds generate surface waves, currents and roll-structures, whose joint effect washes ashore from the underwater slope both amber stones and plastics – and carries them back to the sea in a few days. Analysis of underlying hydrophysical processes suggests that sea coastal zone under stormy winds plays a role of a mill for plastics, and negatively buoyant pieces seem to repeatedly migrate between beaches and underwater slopes until they are broken into small enough fragments that can be transported by currents to deeper areas and deposited out of reach of stormy waves. Direct observations on microplastics migrations are urged to prove the hypothesis.

Irina Chubarenko, Natalia Stepanova, Environmental Pollution, Volume 224, May 2017, Pages 243–254

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