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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Turning microplastics into nanoplastics through digestive fragmentation by Antarctic krill

Microplastics (plastics <5 mm diameter) are at the forefront of current environmental pollution research, however, little is known about the degradation of microplastics through ingestion. Here, by exposing Antarctic krill (Euphausia superba) to microplastics under acute static renewal conditions, we present evidence of physical size alteration of microplastics ingested by a planktonic crustacean. Ingested microplastics (31.5 µm) are fragmented into pieces less than 1 µm in diameter. Previous feeding studies have shown spherical microplastics either; pass unaffected through an organism and are excreted, or are sufficiently small for translocation to occur. We identify a new pathway; microplastics are fragmented into sizes small enough to cross physical barriers, or are egested as a mixture of triturated particles. These findings suggest that current laboratory-based feeding studies may be oversimplifying interactions between zooplankton and microplastics but also introduces a new role of Antarctic krill, and potentially other species, in the biogeochemical cycling and fate of plastic.

Amanda L. Dawson, So Kawaguchi, Catherine K. King, Kathy A. Townsend, Robert King, Wilhelmina M. Huston, Susan M. Bengtson Nash ,Nature Communications, volume 9, Article number: 1001, 2018

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Brain damage and behavioural disorders in fish induced by plastic nanoparticles delivered through the food chain

The tremendous increases in production of plastic materials has led to an accumulation of plastic pollution worldwide. Many studies have addressed the physical effects of large-sized plastics on organisms, whereas few have focused on plastic nanoparticles, despite their distinct chemical, physical and mechanical properties. Hence our understanding of their effects on ecosystem function, behaviour and metabolism of organisms remains elusive. Here we demonstrate that plastic nanoparticles reduce survival of aquatic zooplankton and penetrate the blood-to-brain barrier in fish and cause behavioural disorders. Hence, for the first time, we uncover direct interactions between plastic nanoparticles and brain tissue, which is the likely mechanism behind the observed behavioural disorders in the top consumer. In a broader perspective, our findings demonstrate that plastic nanoparticles are transferred up through a food chain, enter the brain of the top consumer and affect its behaviour, thereby severely disrupting the function of natural ecosystems.

Karin Mattsson, Elyse V. Johnson, Anders Malmendal, Sara Linse, Lars-Anders Hansson, Tommy Cedervall, Scientific Reports, 7, Article number: 11452, 2017

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Aging of microplastics promotes their ingestion by marine zooplankton

Microplastics (<5 mm) are ubiquitous in the marine environment and are ingested by zooplankton with possible negative effects on survival, feeding, and fecundity. The majority of laboratory studies has used new and pristine microplastics to test their impacts, while aging processes such as weathering and biofouling alter the characteristics of plastic particles in the marine environment. We investigated zooplankton ingestion of polystyrene beads (15 and 30 μm) and fragments (≤30 μm), and tested the hypothesis that microplastics previously exposed to marine conditions (aged) are ingested at higher rates than pristine microplastics. Polystyrene beads were aged by soaking in natural local seawater for three weeks. Three zooplankton taxa ingested microplastics, excluding the copepod Pseudocalanus spp., but the proportions of individuals ingesting plastic and the number of particles ingested were taxon and life stage specific and dependent on plastic size. All stages of Calanus finmarchicus ingested polystyrene fragments. Aged microbeads were preferred over pristine ones by females of Acartia longiremis as well as juvenile copepodites CV and adults of Calanus finmarchicus. The preference for aged microplastics may be attributed to the formation of a biofilm. Such a coating, made up of natural microbes, may contain similar prey as the copepods feed on in the water column and secrete chemical exudates that aid chemodetection and thus increase the attractiveness of the particles as food items. Much of the ingested plastic was, however, egested within a short time period (2–4 h) and the survival of adult Calanus females was not affected in an 11-day exposure. Negative effects of microplastics ingestion were thus limited. Our findings emphasize, however, that aging plays an important role in the transformation of microplastics at sea and ingestion by grazers, and should thus be considered in future microplastics ingestion studies and estimates of microplastics transfer into the marine food web.

Renske J.E. Vroom, Albert A. Koelmans, Ellen Besseling, Claudia Halsband, Environmental Pollution, Volume 231, Part 1, December 2017, Pages 987–996

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Ingestion of microplastics by natural zooplankton groups in the northern South China Sea

The ingestion of microplastics by five natural zooplankton groups in the northern South China Sea was studied for the first time and two types of sampling nets (505 μm and 160 μm in mesh size) were compared. The microplastics were detected in zooplankton sampled from 16 stations, with the fibrous microplastics accounting for the largest proportion (70%). The main component of the found microplastics was polyester. The average length of the microplastics was 125 μm and 167 μm for Nets I and II, respectively. The encounter rates of microplastics/zooplankton increased with trophic levels. The average encounter rate of microplastics/zooplankton was 5%, 15%, 34%, 49%, and 120% for Net I, and 8%, 21%, 47%, 60%, and 143% for Net II for copepods, chaetognaths, jellyfish, shrimp, and fish larvae, respectively. The average abundance of microplastics that were ingested by zooplankton was 4.1 pieces/m3 for Net I and 131.5 pieces/m3 for Net II.

Xiaoxia Sun, Qingjie Li, Mingliang Zhu, Junhua Liang, Shan Zheng, Yongfang Zhao, Marine Pollution Bulletin, Volume 115, Issues 1–2, 15 February 2017, Pages 217–224

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Changes in the composition of ichthyoplankton assemblage and plastic debris in mangrove creeks relative to moon phases

Lunar influence on the distribution of fish larvae, zooplankton and plastic debris in mangrove creeks of the Goiana Estuary, Brazil, was studied over a lunar cycle. Cetengraulis edentulus, Anchovia clupeoides and Rhinosardinia bahiensis were the most abundant fish larvae (56·6%), independent of the moon phase. The full moon had a positive influence on the abundance of Gobionellus oceanicus, Cynoscion acoupa and Atherinella brasiliensis, and the new moon on Ulaema lefroyi. The full and new moons also influenced the number of zoeae and megalopae of Ucides cordatus, protozoeae and larvae of caridean shrimps, and the number of hard and soft plastic debris, both <5 and >5 mm. Micro and macroplastics were present in samples from all 12 creeks studied, at densities similar to the third most abundant taxon, R. bahiensis. Cetengraulis edentulus and R. bahiensis showed a strong positive correlation with the last quarter moon, when there was less zooplankton available in the creeks and higher abundance of microplastic threads. Anchovia clupeoides, Diapterus rhombeus, U. lefroyi and hard microplastics were positively associated with different moon phases, when calanoid copepods, Caridean larvae and zoeae of U. cordatus were highly available in the creeks. Cynoscion acoupa, G. oceanicus and A. brasiliensis were strongly associated with the full moon, when protozoeae of caridean shrimps and megalopae of U. cordatus were also highly available, as were hard and soft macroplastics, paint chips (<5 mm) and soft microplastics. The results reinforce the role of mangrove creeks as nursery habitats. The moon phases influenced the distribution of fish larvae species, zooplankton and plastic debris by changing their compositions and abundances in the mangrove creeks of the Goiana Estuary when under the influence of different tidal current regimes.

Lima, A. R. A., Barletta, M., Costa, M. F., Ramos, J. A. A., Dantas, D. V., Melo, P. A. M. C., Justino, A. K. S. and Ferreira, G. V. B., J Fish Biol, Volume 89, Issue 1, July 2016, Pages 619–640

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