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

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, Available online 25 April 2017, In Press

The article

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

The article

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

The article

Plastic pollution on the Baltic beaches of Kaliningrad region, Russia

Contamination of sandy beaches of the Baltic Sea in Kaliningrad region is evaluated on the base of surveys carried out from June 2015 to January 2016. Quantity of macro/meso/microplastic objects in the upper 2 cm of the sandy sediments of the wrack zone at 13 sampling sites all along the Russian coast is reported. Occurrence of paraffin and amber pieces at the same sites is pointed out. Special attention is paid to microplastics (range 0.5–5 mm): its content ranges between 1.3 and 36.3 items per kg dry sediment. The prevailing found type is foamed plastic. No sound differences in contamination are discovered between beaches with high and low anthropogenic load. Mean level of contamination is of the same order of magnitude as has been reported by other authors for the Baltic Sea beaches.

Elena Esiukova,, Marine Pollution Bulletin, Volume 114, Issue 2, 30 January 2017, Pages 1072–1080

Occurrence of plastic debris in the stomach of the invasive crab Eriocheir sinensis

The Chinese mitten crab is known as a pest causing damage to fishing gears and fish. On the other hand, this highly invasive species is considered a delicacy by Asian migrants and therefore commercially fished and sold in many countries. The ingestion of plastic by the Chinese mitten crab Eriocheir sinensis from the Baltic coastal waters (Poland) and the Tagus Estuary (Portugal) was studied based on stomach content analysis. As many as 13% of the 302 analysed males and females (38.07–89.07 mm carapace width) from both regions, contained microplastic in the form of strands and balls. Most of them were transparent. Ingested plastic particles were identified as fragments of fishing gears. Contamination with plastic may have a negative impact on this species as well as on higher trophic levels feeding on crabs.

Dagmara Wójcik-Fudalewska, Monika Normant-Saremba, Pedro Anastácio, Marine Pollution Bulletin, Volume 113, Issues 1–2, 15 December 2016, Pages 306–311

The article