Global ecological, social and economic impacts of marine plastic

This research takes a holistic approach to considering the consequences of marine plastic pollution. A semi-systematic literature review of 1191 data points provides the basis to determine the global ecological, social and economic impacts. An ecosystem impact analysis demonstrates that there is global evidence of impact with medium to high frequency on all subjects, with a medium to high degree of irreversibility. A novel translation of these ecological impacts into ecosystem service impacts provides evidence that all ecosystem services are impacted to some extent by the presence of marine plastic, with a reduction in provision predicted for all except one. This reduction in ecosystem service provision is evidenced to have implications for human health and wellbeing, linked particularly to fisheries, heritage and charismatic species, and recreation.

Beaumont N., Aanesen M., Austen M. C. and al., Marine Pollution Bulletin, Volume 142, May 2019, Pages 189-195

The article

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Concentrations and distribution of phthalate esters in the seamount area of the Tropical Western Pacific Ocean

A total of 14 phthalate esters (PAEs) were analysed by gas chromatography–mass spectrometry (GC–MS) to better understand its occurrence and distribution in seawater samples of M2 seamount in the Tropical Western Pacific Ocean (TWPO). The concentrations of ΣPAEs in the seawater ranged from 12.13 ng L−1 to 60.69 ng L−1 (av. 28.86 ng L−1), dominated by dibutyl phthalate (DBP), di(2‑ethylhexyl) phthalate (DEHP) and diisobutyl phthalate (DiBP). ΣPAEs concentrations in the southwest of the seamount were lower than those in the northeast, with the minima appearing above the seamount summit. Current-seamount interaction was reckoned to be the principal driving factors in the distribution of PAEs. DEHP posed a medium risk in seawater, suggesting that marine plastic pollution has become an urgent environmental issue that calls for more attention and actions. Microplastics leaching and atmospheric deposition might be the potential sources of PAEs.

Q. Zhang, J. Song, X. Li and al., Marine Pollution Bulletin, Volume 140, March 2019, Pages 107-115

The article

Risk assessment of microplastics in the ocean: Modelling approach and first conclusions

We performed an environmental risk assessment for microplastics (<5 mm) in the marine environment by estimating the order of magnitude of the past, present and future concentrations based on global plastic production data. In 2100, from 9.6 to 48.8 particles m−3 are predicted to float around in the ocean, which is a 50-fold increase compared to the present-day concentrations. From a meta-analysis with effect data available in literature, we derived a safe concentration of 6650 buoyant particles m−3 below which adverse effects are not likely to occur. Our risk assessment (excluding the potential role of microplastics as chemical vectors) suggests that on average, no direct effects of free-floating microplastics in the marine environment are to be expected up to the year 2100. Yet, even today, the safe concentration can be exceeded in sites that are heavily polluted with buoyant microplastics. In the marine benthic compartment between 32 and 144 particles kg−1 dry sediment are predicted to be present in the beach deposition zone. Despite the scarcity of effect data, we expect adverse ecological effects along the coast as of the second half of the 21st century. From then ambient concentrations will start to outrange the safe concentration of sedimented microplastics (i.e. 540 particles kg−1 sediment). Additional ecotoxicological research in which marine species are chronically exposed to realistic environmental microplastic concentration series are urgently needed to verify our findings.

Gert Everaert, Lisbeth Van Cauwenberghe, Maarten De Rijcke and al., Environmental Pollution, Volume 242, Part B, November 2018, Pages 1930-1938

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Incidence and identification of microfibers in ocean waters in Admiralty Bay, Antarctica

Antarctic pristine environment is threatened by the presence of microplastics that occur in a variety of shapes and sizes, from fibers to irregular fragments. The aim of this study is to assess the abundance, distribution, and the characterization of the microfibers in zooplankton samples found in ocean waters in Admiralty Bay, Antarctica. The samples were collected at five points in Admiralty Bay during the XXIX Brazilian Antarctic Expedition in the austral summer of 2010–2011. A total of 603 microfibers were collected in 60 samples, with an average abundance of 2.40 (± 4.57) microfibers 100 m−3. Microfiber size ranging from ca. 10 to 22 μm in diameter of various lengths and colors (blue, red, black, and clear) was collected and characterized by scanning electron microscopy (SEM) and Raman spectroscopy. Most of these microfibers were entangled in various different zooplankton species and were identified as polymers composed mostly by polyethyleneglycols, polyurethanes, polyethylene terephthalates, and polyamides. The presence of such microfibers may cause the loss of biodiversity in the Antarctic continent, and the results presented herein can contribute to a better understanding of the impact caused by them within the food chain and human health.

Theresinha Monteiro Absher, Silvio Luiz Ferreira, Yargos Kern, Augusto Luiz FerreiraJr, Susete Wambier Christo, Rômulo Augusto Ando, Environmental Science and Pollution Research, , Volume 26, Issue 1, pp 292–298

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Microplastics contaminate the deepest part of the world’s ocean

Millions of metric tons of plastics are produced annually and transported from land to the oceans. Finding the fate of the plastic debris will help define the impacts of plastic pollution in the ocean. Here, we report the abundances of microplastic in the deepest part of the world’s ocean. We found that microplastic abundances in hadal bottom waters range from 2.06 to 13.51 pieces per litre, several times higher than those in open ocean subsurface water. Moreover, microplastic abundances in hadal sediments of the Mariana Trench vary from 200 to 2200 pieces per litre, distinctly higher than those in most deep sea sediments. These results suggest that manmade plastics have contaminated the most remote and deepest places on the planet. The hadal zone is likely one of the largest sinks for microplastic debris on Earth, with unknown but potentially damaging impacts on this fragile ecosystem.

X. Peng, M. Chen, S. Chen and al., Geochemical Perspectives Letters v9, Published 27 November 2018

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Double trouble in the South Pacific subtropical gyre: Increased plastic ingestion by fish in the oceanic accumulation zone

Fish are an important food source for South Pacific (SP) island countries, yet there is little information on contamination of commercial marine fish species by plastic. The aim of our study was to perform a broad-scale assessment of plastic ingestion by fish common in the diet of SP inhabitants. We examined 932 specimens from 34 commercial fish species across four SP locations, and some of the prey they ingested, for the presence of marine plastics. Plastic was found in 33 species, with an average ingestion rate (IR) of 24.3 ± 1.4% and plastic load of 2.4 ± 0.2 particles per fish. Rapa Nui fish exhibited the greatest IR (50.0%), significantly greater than in other three locations. Rapa Nui is located within the SP subtropical gyre, where the concentration of marine plastics is high and food is limited. Plastic was also found in prey, which confirms the trophic transfer of microplastics.

A. Markic, C. Niemand, J. H. Bridson and al., Marine Pollution Bulletin, Volume 136, November 2018, Pages 547-564

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Effects of polymethylmethacrylate nanoplastics on Dicentrarchus labrax

The present study aimed to evaluate the effects of ~45 nm nanoplastics (NPs) on the marine fish Dicentrarchus labrax after a short-term exposure. Animals were exposed to a concentration range of NPs for 96 h and liver, plasma and skin mucus were sampled. Assessed endpoints included biochemical biomarkers and expression of genes related to lipid metabolism, immune system and general cell stress. Abundance of mRNA transcripts related to lipid metabolism, pparα and pparγ, were significantly increased after exposure to NPs. Biochemical endpoints revealed decreased esterase activity levels in plasma, suggesting that the immune system of fish might be compromised by exposure to NPs. Moreover, significantly lower levels of alkaline phosphatase were found in the skin mucus of animals exposed to NPs. The present results suggest that NPs may represent a hazard to this marine fish, potentially interfering with the metabolism of lipids and the correct function of the immune response.

I. Brandts, M. Teles, A. Tvarijonaviciute and al., Genomics, Volume 110, Issue 6, November 2018, Pages 435-441

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