Effects of pollution on marine organisms

This review covers selected 2016 articles on the biological effects of pollutants and human physical disturbances on marine and estuarine plants, animals, ecosystems and habitats. The review, based largely on journal articles, covers field and laboratory measurement activities (bioaccumulation of contaminants, field assessment surveys, toxicity testing and biomarkers) as well as pollution issues of current interest including endocrine disrupters, emerging contaminants, wastewater discharges, dredging and disposal etc. Special emphasis is placed on effects of oil spills and marine debris due largely to the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil blowout in the Gulf of Mexico. Several topical areas reviewed in the past (ballast water and ocean acidification) were dropped this year. The focus of this review is on effects, not pollutant fate and transport. There is considerable overlap across subject areas (e.g.some bioaccumulation papers may be cited in other topical categories). Please use keyword searching of the text to locate related but distributed papers. Use this review only as a guide and please consult the original papers before citing them.

Mearns, Alan J.; Reish, Donald J.; Oshida, Philip S.; Morrison, Ann Michelle; Rempel-Hester, Mary Ann; Arthur, Courtney; Rutherford, Nicolle; Pryor, Rachel, Water Environment Research, 2017 Literature Review, pp. 1704-1798 (95)

The article


Ingestion of microplastic debris by green sea turtles (Chelonia mydas) in the Great Barrier Reef: Validation of a sequential extraction protocol

Ocean contamination by plastics is a global issue. Although ingestion of plastic debris by sea turtles has been widely documented, contamination by microplastics (< 5 mm) is poorly known and likely to be under-reported. We developed a microplastic extraction protocol for examining green turtle (Chelonia mydas) chyme, which is multifarious in nature, by modifying and combining pre-established methods used to separate microplastics from organic matter and sediments. This protocol consists of visual inspection, nitric acid digestion, emulsification of residual fat, density separation, and chemical identification by Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy. This protocol enables the extraction of polyethylene, high-density polyethylene, (aminoethyl) polystyrene, polypropylene, and polyvinyl chloride microplastics > 100 μm. Two macroplastics and seven microplastics (two plastic paint chips and five synthetic fabric particles) were isolated from subsamples of two green turtles. Our results highlight the need for more research towards understanding the impact of microplastics on these threatened marine reptiles.

A. Caron, C. Thomas, K. Berry and al., Marine Pollution Bulletin, Volume 127, February 2018, Pages 743–751

The article

Adsorption of perfluoroalkyl substances on microplastics under environmental conditions

Plastic debris has become an environmental problem during recent years. Among the plastic debris, microplastics (<5 mm; MPLs) imply an extra problem due to their capacity to enter into the fauna through ingestion. In this work, we study the capacity of three MPLs, that include high-density polyethylene (HDPE), polystyrene (PS) and polystyrene carboxylate (PS-COOH), to sorb 18 perfluoroalkyl substances (PFASs; including carboxylic acids, sulphonates and one sulphonamide) from the surrounding waters (freshwater and seawater).

Conclusions drawn from the results are that perfluoro sulphonates and sulphonamides have more tendency to be sorbed onto MPLs. In addition, PS and PS-COOH have more affinity for PFASs than HDPE. Finally, the increment of conductivity and pH of the water decreases the exposure time that is necessary to reach equilibrium. However, the presence of salts decreases the tendency of PFASs to be sorbed onto plastic surfaces. These results highlight the problem associated with the presence of MPLs in inland and marine waters since toxic compounds can be sorbed onto surrounding plastics that could be ingested by aquatic fauna.

Marta Llorca, Gabriella Schirinzi, Mònica Martínez and al., Environmental Pollution, Volume 235, April 2018, Pages 680–691

The article

Microplastics contamination in molluscs from the northern part of the Persian Gulf

Microplastics (MPs) are well-known emerging contaminants in the marine environment. A key route by which MPs can directly affect marine life is through ingestion. The objective of the present study was to evaluate the occurrence of MPs in marine life and seafood for human consumption in the Persian Gulf. We conducted a whole body analysis of MP (between 10 and 5000 μm in diameter) abundance in five species of molluscs with different feeding strategies, including both gastropods and bivalves from the littoral zone of the Iranian coast of the Persian Gulf. The mean number of total encountered MPs in all species ranged from 0.2 to 21.0 particles per g of soft tissue (wet weight) and from 3.7 to 17.7 particles per individual. Overall, microfibres followed by fragments were the most common type of MP isolated in each species (respectively > 50% and ≈26%). Film (≈14%) and pellets (≈2%) were less commonly observed. The observed MPs were classified into three size groups (ca. 10–25 μm, 25–250 μm and 250–5000 μm), and 37–58% of MPs fell into the smallest size group. Fourier transform infrared (FT-IR) analysis confirmed the presence of polyethylene (PE), polyethylene terephthalate (PET), and nylon (PA). Our results indicated that molluscan shellfish from the Persian Gulf contain MPs, with higher concentrations in a predatory species, suggesting trophic transfer of MPs in the food web. The consumption of edible species may be a source of human microplastic intake. We compared our results with those previously reported for other regions of the world and identified the need for further studies in the Persian Gulf.

Abolfazl Naji, Marzieh Nuri, A. Dick Vethaak, Environmental Pollution, Volume 235, April 2018, Pages 113–120

The article

Spatio-temporal variation of anthropogenic marine debris on Chilean beaches

We examined the hypothesis that in an emerging economy such as Chile the abundances of Anthropogenic Marine Debris (AMD) on beaches are increasing over time. The citizen science program Científicos de la Basura (“Litter Scientists”) conducted three national surveys (2008, 2012 and 2016) to determine AMD composition, abundance, spatial patterns and temporal trends. AMD was found on all beaches along the entire Chilean coast. Highest percentages of AMD in all surveys were plastics and cigarette butts, which can be attributed to local sources (i.e. beach users). The Antofagasta region in northern Chile had the highest abundance of AMD compared with all other zones. Higher abundances of AMD were found at the upper stations from almost all zones. No significant tendency of increasing or decreasing AMD densities was observed during the 8 years covered by our study, which suggests that economic development alone cannot explain temporal trends in AMD densities.

Valeria Hidalgo-Ruz, Daniela Honorato-Zimmer, Magdalena Gatta-Rosemary, Paloma Nuñez, Iván A. Hinojosa, Martin Thiel, Marine Pollution Bulletin, Volume 126, January 2018, Pages 516–524

The article

An airborne remote sensing case study of synthetic hydrocarbon detection using short wave infrared absorption features identified from marine-harvested macro- and microplastics

The abundance and distribution of plastic debris in natural waters is largely unknown due to limited comprehensive monitoring. Here, optical properties of dry and wet marine-harvested plastic debris were quantified to explore the feasibility of plastic debris optical remote sensing in the natural environment. We measured the spectral reflectance of microplastics (< 5 mm) from the North Atlantic Ocean, macroplastics (> 5 mm) washed ashore along the USA west coast and virgin plastic pellets over a wavelength range from 350 to 2500 nm. Compared to the spectral variability of multi-colored dry macroplastics, the measured dry marine-harvested microplastic reflectance spectra could be represented as a single bulk average spectrum with notable absorption features at ~ 931, 1215, 1417 and 1732 nm. The wet marine-harvested microplastics had similar spectral features to the dry microplastics but the magnitude was lower over the measured spectrum. When spectrally matched to the reference library of typical dry virgin pellets, the mean dry marine-harvested microplastics reflectance had moderate similarities to low-density polyethylene, polyethylene terephthalate, polypropylene and polymethyl methacrylate. This composition was consistent with the subset sampled with the Fourier Transform Infrared (FTIR) spectrometer and what has been reported globally. The absorption features at 1215 and 1732 nm were observable through an intervening atmosphere and used to map the distributions of synthetic hydrocarbons at a landfill and on man-made structures from airborne visible-infrared imaging spectrometer (AVIRIS) imagery, indicating the potential to remotely sense dry washed ashore and land-origin plastics. These same absorption features were identifiable on wet marine-harvested microplastics, but the ability to conduct remote sensing of microplastics at the ocean surface layer will require more detailed radiative transfer analysis and development of high signal-to-noise sensors. The spectral measurements presented here provide a foundation for such advances towards remote detection of plastics from various platforms.

Shungudzemwoyo P. Garaba, Heidi M. Dierssen, Remote Sensing of Environment, Volume 205, February 2018, Pages 224–235

The article

Lost, but Found with Nile Red: A Novel Method for Detecting and Quantifying Small Microplastics (1 mm to 20 μm) in Environmental Samples

Marine plastic debris is a global environmental problem. Surveys have shown that <5 mm plastic particles, known as microplastics, are significantly more abundant in surface seawater and on shorelines than larger plastic particles are. Nevertheless, quantification of microplastics in the environment is hampered by a lack of adequate high-throughput methods for distinguishing and quantifying smaller size fractions (<1 mm), and this has probably resulted in an underestimation of actual microplastic concentrations. Here we present a protocol that allows high-throughput detection and automated quantification of small microplastic particles (20–1000 μm) using the dye Nile red, fluorescence microscopy, and image analysis software. This protocol has proven to be highly effective in the quantification of small polyethylene, polypropylene, polystyrene, and nylon-6 particles, which frequently occur in the water column. Our preliminary results from sea surface tows show a power-law increase in small microplastics (i.e., <1 mm) with a decreasing particle size. Hence, our data help to resolve speculation about the “apparent” loss of this fraction from surface waters. We consider that this method presents a step change in the ability to detect small microplastics by substituting the subjectivity of human visual sorting with a sensitive and semiautomated procedure.

Gabriel Erni-Cassola, Matthew I. Gibson, Richard C. Thompson and Joseph A. Christie-Oleza, Environ. Sci. Technol., 51 (23), pp 13641–13648, November 7, 2017