Assessment of Marine Litter in the Barents Sea, a Part of the Joint Norwegian–Russian Ecosystem Survey

This study presents a large-scale monitoring of marine litter performed in the joint Norwegian–Russian ecosystem monitoring surveys in the period from 2010 to 2016 and contribute to documentation of the extent of marine litter in the Barents Sea. The distribution and abundance of marine litter were calculated by recordings of bycatch from the pelagic trawling in upper 60 m, from bottom trawling close to the sea floor, and floating marine debris at surface by visual observations. The study is comprehensive regarding coverage and number with registrations from 2,265 pelagic trawls and 1,860 bottom trawls, in addition to surface registration between the stations. Marine litter has been recorded from 301 pelagic and 624 of the bottom trawl catches. In total, 784 visual observations of floating marine debris were recorded during the period. Marine litter has been categorized according to volume or weight of the material types plastic, wood, metal, rubber, glass, paper, and textile. Marine litter is observed in the entire Barents Sea and distribution vary with material densities, ocean currents and depth. Plastic dominated number of observations with marine litter, as 72% of surface observations, 94% of pelagic trawls, and 86% of bottom trawls contained plastic. Observations of wood constituted 19% of surface observations, 1% of pelagic trawls, and 17% of bottom trawls with marine litter. Materials from other categories such as metal, rubber, paper, textile, and glass were observed sporadically. Recordings of wood dominated surface observations (61.9 ± 21.6% by volume) and on seafloor (59.4 ± 35.0% by weight), while plastic dominated marine litter observations in upper 60 m depth (86.4 ± 16.5% by weight) over these 7 years. Based on recordings and volume or area covered, mean levels of plastic in the upper 60 m of the Barents Sea were found to 0.011 mg m−3 (pelagic) and 2.9 kg km−2 at sea floor over the study period. Average levels of marine litter (all material types) at the sea floor were found to be 26 kg km−2.

Bjørn E. Grøsvik, Tatiana Prokhorova, Elena Eriksen, Pavel Krivosheya, Per A. Horneland and Dmitry Prozorkevich, Front. Mar. Sci., 06 March 2018

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Comparative Effects of Ingested PVC Micro Particles With and Without Adsorbed Benzo(a)pyrene vs. Spiked Sediments on the Cellular and Sub Cellular Processes of the Benthic Organism Hediste diversicolor

Plastic micro litter represents an emerging contaminant as well as a multiple stress agent in aquatic environments. Microplastics are found even in the remote areas of the world. Together with their occurrence in all environmental compartments, there is a growing concern about their potential to adsorb pollutants co-occurring in the environment. At present, little is known about this source of exposure for aquatic organisms in the benthic environment. Exposure conditions were set up to mimick the contribution of microplastics through different exposure routes. Potential biological effects resulting from these exposures were investigated in the model organism Hediste diversicolor, an annelid worm. Cellular effects including alterations of immunological responses, lysosomal compartment changes, mitochondrial activity, oxyradical production and onset of genotoxicity were assessed in coelomocytes while temporary and permanent effects of oxidative stress were also performed at tissue level. In this study polyvinylchloride (PVC) microparticles were shown to adsorb benzo(a)pyrene with a time and dose-dependent relationship. The elevated bioavailability of the model pollutant after ingestion induced a clear pattern of biological responses. Toxicity mainly targeted impairment of cellular functioning and genotoxicity in H. diversicolor coelomocytes, while permanent effects of oxidative stress were observed at tissue level. Coelomocytes responded fast and with a higher degree of sensitivity to the adverse stimuli. The results showed that microplastic particles in sediments may play a significant role as vectors for organic pollutants. The highest adverse responses were observed in those H. diversicolor exposed to sediments spiked with PVC particles pre-incubated with B[a]P when compared against sediments spiked with B[a]P and plastic microparticles separately.

Alessio Gomiero, Pierluigi Strafella, Giulio Pellini, Vera Salvalaggio and Gianna Fabi, Front. Mar. Sci., 05 April 2018

The article

Methods for sampling and detection of microplastics in water and sediment: A critical review

Microplastics are widespread contaminants, virtually present in all environmental compartments. However, knowledge on sources, fate and environmental concentration over time and space still is limited due to the laborious and varied analytical procedures currently used. In this work we critically review the methods currently used for sampling and detection of microplastics, identifying flaws in study design and suggesting promising alternatives. This work provides insights on bulk sample collection, separation, digestion, identification and quantification, and mitigation of cross-contamination. The sampling of microplastics will improve in representativeness and reproducibility through the determination of bulk sample volume, filter’s pore size, density separation and digestion solutions, but also through use of novel methods, such as the enhancement of visual identification by staining dyes, and the generalized use of chemical characterization.

J. Correia Prata, J. P. da Costa, A. C. Duarte and al., TrAC Trends in Analytical Chemistry, Volume 110, January 2019, Pages 150-159

The article

High levels of microplastic pollution in the sediments and benthic organisms of the South Yellow Sea, China

Microplastics, emerging contaminants in the ocean, are thought to sink and accumulate in sediments, and thus may pose a potential ecological risk to benthic communities. In this study, abundances and characteristics of microplastics in sediments and benthic organisms from the South Yellow Sea were investigated. First, we optimized the sediment sampling for microplastic analysis and found that the top layer (0–5 cm) had the highest abundance, and microplastic abundances decreased significantly with increase in sediment depth. The abundance of microplastics was 560–4205 n/kg dry weight in the surface sediments (the topmost 3 cm) of 14 sites and 1.7–47.0 n/g wet weight in the tissues of benthic organisms. Moreover, microplastic abundances in sediments and benthic organisms were both positively correlated with water depth. Fibers, transparent microplastics, and small microplastics (<0.5 mm) were the most dominant types in sediments and organisms. FTIR analysis showed that polypropylene (PP, 31%), polyester (PE, 24%), nylon (19%), and polystyrene (PS, 15%) were the most abundant polymers in sediments. The results of SEM showed rough surfaces and obvious cracks on the microplastics isolated from sediments. In addition, characteristics of microplastics in Ophiura sarsii, Crangon affinis, and Acila mirabilis were compared. Our results demonstrate that a comprehensive investigation of microplastics in sediments and benthic communities will help to fully understand the ecological risk of microplastic pollution.

J. Wang, M. Wang, S. Ru and al., Science of The Total Environment, Volume 651, Part 2, 15 February 2019, Pages 1661-1669

The article

Microplastics in the aquatic environment: Evidence for or against adverse impacts and major knowledge gaps

There is increasing scientific and public concern over the presence of microplastics in the natural environment. We present the results of a systematic review of the literature to assess the weight of evidence for microplastics causing environmental harm. We conclude that microplastics do occur in surface water and sediments. Fragments and fibers predominate, with beads making up only a small proportion of the detected microplastic types. Concentrations detected are orders of magnitude lower than those reported to affect endpoints such as biochemistry, feeding, reproduction, growth, tissue inflammation and mortality in organisms. The evidence for microplastics acting as a vector for hydrophobic organic compounds to accumulate in organisms is also weak. The available data therefore suggest that these materials are not causing harm to the environment. There is, however, a mismatch between the particle types, size ranges, and concentrations of microplastics used in laboratory tests and those measured in the environment. Select environmental compartments have also received limited attention. There is an urgent need for studies that address this mismatch by performing high quality and more holistic monitoring studies alongside more environmentally realistic effects studies. Only then will we be able to fully characterize risks of microplastics to the environment to support the introduction of regulatory controls that can make a real positive difference to environmental quality.

Emily E. Burns, Alistair B.A. Boxall, Environ Toxicol Chem, 2018 ; 37:2776–2796. © 2018 SETAC

The article

Size-selective feeding of Arenicola marina promotes long-term burial of microplastic particles in marine sediments

Despite of their ubiquitous distribution in marine sediments, the role of benthic fauna in microplastic transport at the sea floor has received little attention yet. The present study investigated the influence of bioturbation activity of the polychaete Arenicola marina on microplastic transport and burial in marine sediments. Sediment ingestion was assessed in a long term mesocosm experiment with exposure times ranging from 106 to 240 days, using three particle tracers with different particle diameters (microplastic: 500 and 1000 μm, respectively; luminophores: 130 μm). Sediment grain size distributions were assessed after experiment termination in all feeding layers at 8–12 cm depth to determine the influence of size-selective feeding of A. marina on median grain size and microplastic retention. Burial of microplastic occurred in all mesocosms up to a depth of 20 cm and was strongly dependent on individual sediment feeding rates. For low bioturbation conditions, both microplastic and luminophore concentrations exhibited an exponential decrease with increasing sediment depth, indicating particle burial via feeding funnel transport. Particle concentrations remained high in the uppermost 4 cm of the sediment. At high bioturbation rates, no microplastic particles remained in near-surface sediment layers, but a distinct accumulation of microplastic was observed in the feeding layer, suggesting the discrimination of plastic particles during feeding. In contrast, luminophores displayed a similar accumulation, but additionally showed uniform distributions above feeding layers, indicating ingestion and defecation by polychaetes. In accordance with these findings, an overall coarsening of median grain sizes was observed in all feeding layers, indicating the retention of large microplastic due to size-selective feeding. These findings demonstrate the ability of the conveyor belt-feeding polychaete A. marina to promote unidirectional transports of microplastic ≥500 μm and the potential for the long-term retention of these particles in marine sediments.

Christopher Gebhardt, Stefan Forster, Environmental Pollution, Volume 242, Part B, November 2018, Pages 1777-1786

The article

Influence of Nano- and Microplastic Particles on the Transport and Deposition Behaviors of Bacteria in Quartz Sand

Plastic particles are world widely present in natural environment and are highly likely to interact with bacteria (the ubiquitous microbes in natural environment), which might affect the transport and deposition of bacteria in porous media. In this study, the significance of plastic particles from nano-scale to micron-scale (0.02-2 μm) on the transport and deposition behaviors of bacteria (Escherichia coli) in quartz sand was examined under environmentally relevant conditions in both NaCl and CaCl2 solutions at pH 6. The results showed that the presence of different-sized plastic particles did not affect bacterial transport behaviors at low ionic strength (10 mM NaCl and 1 mM CaCl2), whereas, at high ionic strength conditions (50 mM NaCl and 5 mM in CaCl2), plastic particles increased bacterial transport in quartz sand. At low ionic strength conditions, the mobility of both plastic particles and bacteria was high, which might drive to the negligible effects of plastic particles on bacterial transport behaviors. The mechanisms driving to the enhanced cell transport at high ionic strength were different for different-sized plastic particles. Specifically, for 0.02 μm nano-plastic particles, the adsorption of plastic particles onto cell surfaces and the repel effect induced by suspended plastic particles contributed to the increased cell transport. As for 0.2 μm MPs, the suspended plastic particles that induced repelling effect contributed to the increased cell transport. Whereas, for 2 μm MPs, the competition deposition sites by the plastic particles was the contributor to the increased cell transport.

HE LEI, Dan Wu, Haifeng Rong, Meng Li, Meiping Tong, and Hyunjung Kim, Environ. Sci. Technol., Just Accepted Manuscript, September 11, 2018