Microplastics as contaminants in commercially important seafood species

The ingestion of microplastic fragments, spheres, and fibers by marine mollusks, crustaceans, and fish, including a number of commercially important species, appears to be a widespread and pervasive phenomenon. Evidence is also growing for direct impacts of microplastic ingestion on physiology, reproductive success and survival of exposed marine organisms, and transfer through food webs, although the ecological implications are not yet known. Concerns also remain over the capacity for microplastics to act as vectors for harmful chemical pollutants, including plastic additives and persistent organic pollutants, although their contribution must be evaluated alongside other known sources. The potential for humans, as top predators, to consume microplastics as contaminants in seafood is very real, and its implications for health need to be considered. An urgent need also exists to extend the geographical scope of studies of microplastic contamination in seafood species to currently underrepresented areas, and to finalize and adopt standardized methods and quality-assurance protocols for the isolation, identification, and quantification of microplastic contaminants from biological tissues. Such developments would enable more robust investigation of spatial and temporal trends, thereby contributing further evidence as a sound basis for regulatory controls. Despite the existence of considerable uncertainties and unknowns, there is already a compelling case for urgent actions to identify, control, and, where possible, eliminate key sources of both primary and secondary microplastics before they reach the marine environment.

D. Santillo, K. Miller, P. Johnston, Integrated Environmental Assessment and Management, Volume 13, Number 3, pp. 516–521, May 2017

The article

Plastics in the North Atlantic garbage patch: A boat-microbe for hitchhikers and plastic degraders

Plastic is a broad name given to different polymers with high molecular weight that impact wildlife. Their fragmentation leads to a continuum of debris sizes (meso to microplastics) entrapped in gyres and colonized by microorganisms. In the present work, the structure of eukaryotes, bacteria and Archaea was studied by a metabarcoding approach, and statistical analysis associated with network building was used to define a core microbiome at the plastic surface. Most of the bacteria significantly associated with the plastic waste originated from non-marine ecosystems, and numerous species can be considered as hitchhikers, whereas others act as keystone species (e.g., Rhodobacterales, Rhizobiales, Streptomycetales and Cyanobacteria) in the biofilm. The chemical analysis provides evidence for a specific colonization of the polymers. Alphaproteobacteria and Gammaproteobacteria significantly dominated mesoplastics consisting of poly(ethylene terephthalate) and polystyrene. Polyethylene was also dominated by these bacterial classes and Actinobacteria. Microplastics were made of polyethylene but differed in their crystallinity, and the majorities were colonized by Betaproteobacteria. Our study indicated that the bacteria inhabiting plastics harboured distinct metabolisms from those present in the surrounding water. For instance, the metabolic pathway involved in xenobiotic degradation was overrepresented on the plastic surface.

Debroas Didier, Mone Anne, Ter Halle Alexandra, Science of The Total Environment, Volumes 599–600, 1 December 2017, Pages 1222–1232

The article

Is the feeding type related with the content of microplastics in intertidal fish gut?

Microplastics pollution is a growing global concern that affects all aquatic ecosystems. Microplastics in the environment can be in the form of fibers and/or particles, being the former the most abundant in the marine environment, representing up to 95% of total plastics. The aim of this work was to compare the content of microplastics among intertidal fish with different feeding type.

Our results show that omnivorous fish presented a higher amount of microplastic fibers than registered in herbivores and carnivores. Moreover, lower condition factors (K) were found in omnivorous specimens with higher microplastic content. We hypothesized that the type of feeding resulted in different microplastic ingestion, with species with wider range of food sources as omnivores with higher rates. Futures studies carried out to evaluate the biological impacts of microplastics on marine organisms, and microplastics cycling on the marine environment should consider the type of feeding of the studied species.

Ricardo Mizraji, Camila Ahrendt, Diego Perez-Venegas and al., Marine Pollution Bulletin, Volume 116, Issues 1–2, 15 March 2017, Pages 498–500

Interactions of microplastic debris throughout the marine ecosystem

Marine microscopic plastic (microplastic) debris is a modern societal issue, illustrating the challenge of balancing the convenience of plastic in daily life with the prospect of causing ecological harm by careless disposal. Here we develop the concept of microplastic as a complex, dynamic mixture of polymers and additives, to which organic material and contaminants can successively bind to form an ‘ecocorona’, increasing the density and surface charge of particles and changing their bioavailability and toxicity. Chronic exposure to microplastic is rarely lethal, but can adversely affect individual animals, reducing feeding and depleting energy stores, with knock-on effects for fecundity and growth. We explore the extent to which ecological processes could be impacted, including altered behaviours, bioturbation and impacts on carbon flux to the deep ocean. We discuss how microplastic compares with other anthropogenic pollutants in terms of ecological risk, and consider the role of science and society in tackling this global issue in the future.

Tamara S. Galloway, Matthew Cole & Ceri Lewis, Nature Ecology & Evolution 1, Article number: 0116 (2017)

The article

Microplastic in Aquatic Ecosystems

The contamination of marine and freshwater ecosystems with plastic, and especially with microplastic (MP), is a global ecological problem of increasing scientific concern. This has stimulated a great deal of research on the occurrence of MP, interaction of MP with chemical pollutants, the uptake of MP by aquatic organisms, and the resulting (negative) impact of MP. Herein, we review the major issues of MP in aquatic environments, with the principal aims 1) to characterize the methods applied for MP analysis (including sampling, processing, identification and quantification), indicate the most reliable techniques, and discuss the required further improvements; 2) to estimate the abundance of MP in marine/freshwater ecosystems and clarify the problems that hamper the comparability of such results; and 3) to summarize the existing literature on the uptake of MP by living organisms. Finally, we identify knowledge gaps, suggest possible strategies to assess environmental risks arising from MP, and discuss prospects to minimize MP abundance in aquatic ecosystems.

N. P. Ivleva, a. Wiesheu, R. Niessner, Angew.Chem.Int., Volume 56, Issue 7, February 6, 2017, Pages 1720–1739  

The article

Distribution of microplastics in the Scottish marine environment (PhD Project)

This PhD will investigate the prevalence and distribution of microplastics by examining water, sediments and biological samples from a suite of pre-determined locations along the Scottish coastline. Comparisons will be made between rural areas (low population density/small-scale industries) and heavily commercialised regions to elucidate differences between regions, with the expectation that commercial regions have higher levels of microplastics. The potential interaction and impact of microplastics with the bivalve aquaculture sector shall also be investigated. As this is a relatively new area of research, methods for the collection and separation of microplastics from water, sediment and biota samples will need to be developed and validated. Particle-based transport models will be developed, using existing hydrodynamic models and a range of particle behaviours, to predict microplastic distributions and hotspots. Initially, this modelling will be carried out at a national scale using Scottish Shelf Model climatology and hypothetical source regions. Smaller scale models, where available, will be used to investigate local distributions.  (…)

The student will be supervised by Dr Bhavani Narayanaswamy (SAMS – UHI), Dr Neil James (ERI-UHI) and Dr Andrew Dale (SAMS – UHI), in collaboration with Dr Brian Quinn University of the West of Scotland.Deadline 8/05/2017


Microplastics in sediments of the Changjiang Estuary, China

Microplastics are plastics that measure less than 5 mm in diameter. They enter the marine environment as primary sources directly from industrial uses, as well as secondary sources resulting from the degradation of large plastic debris. To improve the knowledge of microplastic pollution in China, we investigated samples from 53 estuarine sediment locations collected with a box corer within the Changjiang Estuary. Microplastics (<5 mm) were extracted from sediments by density separation, after which they were observed under a microscope and categorized according to shape, color and size. Identification was carried out using Micro-Fourier-Transform Infrared Spectroscopy (μ-FT-IR).

The abundance of microplastics in the Changjiang Estuary was mapped. The mean concentration was 121 ± 9 items per kg of dry weight, varying from 20 to 340 items per kg of dry weight. It was found that the concentration of microplastics was the highest on the southeast coast of Shanghai. The distribution pattern of microplastics may be affected by the Changjiang diluted water in summer. All of the microplastics collected were categorized according to shape, color and size. Among which fiber (93%), transparent (42%) and small microplastics (<1 mm) (58%) were the most abundant types. No clear correlation between microplastics and the finer sediment fraction was found. Rayon, polyester, and acrylic were the most abundant types of microplastics identified, indicating that the main source of microplastics in the Changjiang Estuary was from washing clothes (the primary source). It is possible to compare microplastic abundance in this study with the results of other related studies using the same quantification method. The identification of microplastics raises the awareness of microplastic pollution from drainage systems. The prevalence of microplastic pollution calls for monitoring microplastics at a national scale on a regular basis.

Guyu Peng, Bangshang Zhu, Dongqi Yang, Lei Su, Huahong Shi, Daoji Li, Environmental Pollution, Volume 225, June 2017, Pages 283–290

The article