Microplastic pollution in the surface waters of Italian Subalpine Lakes

Plastic debris incidence in marine environment was already highlighted in the early 1970s. Over the last decade, microplastic pollution in the environment has received increasing attention and is now an emerging research area. Many studies have focused on quantifying microplastic abundance in the marine environment, while there are relatively few data on microplastic occurrence in freshwater environment. Recent studies have reported high concentrations of microplastics in lakes and rivers, although the understanding of several factors influencing source, transport and fate is still limited. This study compares different lakes and the common factors, which could influence the occurrence and distribution of microplastics. The three subalpine lakes monitored include Lake Maggiore, Iseo and Garda. The selected sampling transects reflect the hydrologic conditions, the morphometric characteristics of these lakes, and other factors influencing the release of plastics debris in lakes. Particles of microplastics (<5 mm) were found in all sampled surfaces. The particles collected were classified depending on their number, shape and composition. The shape distribution showed the dominating occurrence of fragments (73.7%). The chemical composition of all examined samples clearly shows dominating presence of polyethylene (45%), polystyrene (18%) and polypropylene (15%). The results provide significant relations among the different contribution of direct and diffuse sources to the quantity of microplastics, highlighting the importance of understanding the spatial distribution dynamics of microplastics within a lake system that acts as a sink and source of plastic particles.

Maria Sighicelli, Loris Pietrelli, Francesca Lecce and al., Environmental Pollution, Volume 236, May 2018, Pages 645–651

The article


Below the surface: Twenty-five years of seafloor litter monitoring in coastal seas of North West Europe (1992–2017)

Marine litter presents a global problem, with increasing quantities documented in recent decades. The distribution and abundance of marine litter on the seafloor off the United Kingdom’s (UK) coasts were quantified during 39 independent scientific surveys conducted between 1992 and 2017. Widespread distribution of litter items, especially plastics, were found on the seabed of the North Sea, English Channel, Celtic Sea and Irish Sea. High variation in abundance of litter items, ranging from 0 to 1835 pieces km−2 of seafloor, was observed. Plastic tems such as bags, bottles and fishing related debris were commonly observed across all areas. Over the entire 25-year period (1992–2017), 63% of the 2461 trawls contained at least one plastic litter item. There was no significant temporal trend in the percentage of trawls containing any or total plastic litter items across the long-term datasets. Statistically significant trends, however, were observed in specific plastic litter categories only. These trends were all positive except for a negative trend in plastic bags in the Greater North Sea – suggesting that behavioural and legislative changes could reduce the problem of marine litter within decades.

T. Maes, J. Barry, H.A. Leslie and al., Science of The Total Environment, Volume 630, 15 July 2018, Pages 790–798

The article

Plastic Waste: a European strategy to protect the planet, defend our citizens and empower our industries

The strategy will protect the environment from plastic pollution whilst fostering growth and innovation, turning a challenge into a positive agenda for the future of Europe. There is a strong business case for transforming the way products are designed, produced, used, and recycled in the EU and by taking the lead in this transition, we will create new investment opportunities and jobs. Under the new plans, all plastic packaging on the EU market will be recyclable by 2030, the consumption of single-use plastics will be reduced and the intentional use of microplastics will be restricted. (…)

European Commission, 16/01/2018

A large-scale investigation of microplastic contamination: Abundance and characteristics of microplastics in European beach sediment

Here we present the large-scale distribution of microplastic contamination in beach sediment across Europe. Sediment samples were collected from 23 locations across 13 countries by citizen scientists, and analysed using a standard operating procedure. We found significant variability in the concentrations of microplastics, ranging from 72 ± 24 to 1512 ± 187 microplastics per kg of dry sediment, with high variability within sampling locations. Three hotspots of microplastic accumulation (> 700 microplastics per kg of dry sediment) were found. There was limited variability in the physico-chemical characteristics of the plastics across sampling locations. The majority of the microplastics were fibrous, < 1 mm in size, and blue/black in colour. In addition, using Raman spectrometry we identified particles as polyester, polyethylene, and polypropylene. Our research is the first large spatial-scale analysis of microplastics on European beaches giving insights into the nature and extent of the microplastic challenge.

Froukje A.E. Lots, Paul Behrens, Martina G. Vijver, Alice A. Horton, Thijs Bosker, Marine Pollution Bulletin, Volume 123, Issues 1–2, 15 October 2017, Pages 219-226

The article

Is it possible to implement a complex adaptive systems approach for marine systems? The experience of Italy and the Adriatic Sea


• This paper evaluates the implementation of the MSFD in the Adriatic Sea.
• The MSFD is the first policy for marine complex adaptive systems in the EU.
• Ecological and jurisdictional boundaries overlap and cross-border cooperation is low.
• Integrative assessments of marine systems may be impossible to achieve.
• Relative isolation of theoretical approaches and management practices.

Emanuele Bigagli, Ocean & Coastal Management, Volume 149, 15 November 2017, Pages 81–95

The article

Marine litter in the Nordic Seas: Distribution composition and abundance

Litter has been found in all marine environments and is accumulating in seabirds and mammals in the Nordic Seas. These ecosystems are under pressure from climatic change and fisheries while the human population is small. The marine landscapes in the area range from shallow fishing banks to deep-sea canyons. We present density, distribution and composition of litter from the first large-scale mapping of sea bed litter in arctic and subarctic waters. Litter was registered from 1778 video transects, of which 27% contained litter. The background density of litter in the Barents Sea and Norwegian Sea is 202 and 279 items/km2 respectively, and highest densities were found close to coast and in canyons. Most of the litter originated from the fishing industry and plastic was the second most common litter. Background levels were comparable to European records and areas with most littering had higher densities than in Europe.

Lene Buhl-Mortensen, Pål Buhl-Mortensen, Marine Pollution Bulletin, Volume 125, Issues 1–2, 15 December 2017, Pages 260-270

The article