A pinboard by
Marina Santana

PhD student, James Cook University (JCU) and Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS)


Bioavailability and effects of microplastic interaction on marine organisms

Historically, enormous amounts of solid waste produced by modern society have been entering the oceans. Along the years, the currently called “marine debris” has become a widespread problem and a major form of ocean pollution. In terms of economy, solely considering plastics, annual estimates say that the amount entering the oceans range from 4.8 to 12.7 million metric tons, costing approximately US$13 billion per year in marine environmental hazards. Among marine debris, microplastics (mps, <1mm) are of great interest because of their high abundance in ocean (currently, the total amount of mps present in marine environments was estimated in 35,540 tons), small size (the smaller the plastic, the higher the number of animals susceptible to their intake), and potential biological effects, including for organisms of commercial interest and, possibly, humans (e.g. ingestion and obstruction of digestive system, translocation to cell and tissues, induction of stress, changes on feeding, and vectorization of other pollutants). Mps can be found in all oceans, being considered one of the main emerging environmental issues of the 21st century. Considering this, the research area in which I am involved examines potential impacts of mps on marine organisms and ecosystems. For that, we investigate (i) the bioavailability of mps particles along natural marine environments, by sampling water, sand and animals to seek for how contaminated they are and what are the types of plastics contaminating them (e.g. polyethylene, polypropylene, PET, etc); and (ii) some possible impacts of individual and ecosystem levels trough lab experiments (e.g. signs of stress, effects on growth, reproduction, death, and trophic impacts). These types of results will then support the understanding of environmental contamination status and species sensitivity for mp exposure, and assist further public polices of use and discard of plastics.


Leachate from microplastics impairs larval development in brown mussels

Abstract: Microplastic debris is a pervasive type of contaminant in marine ecosystems, being considered a major threat to marine biota. One of the problems of microplastics is that they can adsorb contaminants in extremely high concentrations. When released from the particle, these contaminants have the potential to cause toxic effects in the biota. So far, reports of toxic effects are mostly linked with the direct exposure of organisms through ingestion of contaminated microplastics. There is little information on the toxicity of leachates from microplastics to marine organisms. In this study, we conducted experiments to evaluate the toxicity of leachates from virgin and beached plastic pellets to embryo development of the brown mussel (Perna perna). We compared the efficiency of two test procedures, and evaluated the toxicity of beached pellets collected in a coastal marine protected area. We observed that mussel embryo is sensitive to leachate from both virgin and beached pellets. However, the toxicity of the leachate from beached pellets was much higher than that of virgin pellets. We suggest contaminants adsorbed onto the surface of beached pellets were responsible for the high toxicity of leachate from beached pellets, while the toxicity of leachate from virgin pellets was mainly due to plastic additives. Our results suggest microplastic debris may be harmful even if ingestion is not the only or main pathway of interaction of marine organisms with contaminated plastic debris.

Pub.: 08 Oct '16, Pinned: 31 Jul '17

Sampling, isolating and identifying microplastics ingested by fish and invertebrates

Abstract: Microplastic debris (<5 mm) is a prolific environmental pollutant, found worldwide in marine, freshwater and terrestrial ecosystems. Interactions between biota and microplastics are prevalent, and there is growing evidence that microplastics can incite significant health effects in exposed organisms. To date, the methods used to quantify such interactions have varied greatly between studies. Here, we critically review methods for sampling, isolating and identifying microplastics ingested by environmentally and laboratory exposed fish and invertebrates. We aim to draw attention to the strengths and weaknesses of the suite of published microplastic extraction and enumeration techniques. Firstly, we highlight the risk of microplastic losses and accumulation during biotic sampling and storage, and suggest protocols for mitigating contamination in the field and laboratory. We evaluate a suite of methods for extracting microplastics ingested by biota, including dissection, depuration, digestion and density separation. Lastly, we consider the applicability of visual identification and chemical analyses in categorising microplastics. We discuss the urgent need for the standardisation of protocols to promote consistency in data collection and analysis. Harmonized methods will allow for more accurate assessment of the impacts and risks microplastics pose to biota and increase comparability between studies.

Pub.: 24 Oct '16, Pinned: 31 Jul '17

Microplastics in mussels along the coastal waters of China.

Abstract: Microplastic has been confirmed as an emerging pollutant in marine environments. One of the primary environmental risks of microplastics is their bioavailability for aquatic organisms. Bivalves are of particular interest because their extensive filter-feeding activity exposes them directly to microplastics present in the water column. In the present study, we investigated microplastic pollution in mussels (Mytilus edulis) from 22 sites along 12,400 mile coastlines of China in 2015. The number of total microplastics varied from 0.9 to 4.6 items/g and from 1.5 to 7.6 items/individual. M. edulis contained more microplastics (2.7 items/g) in wild groups than that (1.6 items/g) in farmed groups. The abundance of microplastics was 3.3 items/g in mussels from the areas with intensive human activities and significantly higher than that (1.6 items/g) with less human activities. The most common microplastics were fibers, followed by fragments. The proportion of microplastics less than 250 μm in size arranged from 17% to 79% of the total microplastics. Diatom was distinguished from microplastics in mussels for the first time using Scanning Electron Microscope. Our results suggested that the numbers of microplastic kept within a relatively narrow range in mussels and were closely related to the contamination of the environments. We proposed that mussels could be used as a potential bioindicator of microplastic pollution of the coastal environment.

Pub.: 18 Apr '16, Pinned: 31 Jul '17

Toxic effects of polyethylene terephthalate microparticles and Di(2-ethylhexyl)phthalate on the calanoid copepod, Parvocalanus crassirostris.

Abstract: Large amounts of plastic end up in the oceans every year where they fragment into microplastics over time. During this process, microplastics and their associated plasticizers become available for ingestion by different organisms. This study assessed the effects of microplastics (Polyethylene terephthalate; PET) and one plasticizer (Di(2-ethylhexyl)phthalate; DEHP) on mortality, productivity, population sizes and gene expression of the calanoid copepod Parvocalanus crassirostris. Copepods were exposed to DEHP for 48h to assess toxicity. Adults were very healthy following chemical exposure (up to 5120µg L(-1)), whereas nauplii were severely affected at very low concentrations (48h LC50value of 1.04 ng L(-1)). Adults exposed to sub-lethal concentrations of DEHP (0.1-0.3µg L(-1)) or microplastics (10,000-80,000 particles mL(-1)) exhibited substantial reductions in egg production. Populations were exposed to either microplastics or DEHP for 6 days with 18 days of recovery or for 24 days. Populations exposed to microplastics for 24 days significantly depleted in population size (60±4.1%, p<0.001) relative to controls, whilst populations exposed for only 6 days (with 18 days of recovery) experienced less severe depletions (75±6.0% of control, p<0.05). Populations exposed to DEHP, however, exhibited no recovery and both treatments (6 and 24 days) yielded the same average population size at the termination of the experiment (59±4.9% and 59±3.4% compared to control; p<0.001). These results suggest that DEHP may induce reproductive disorders that can be inherited by subsequent generations. Histone 3 (H3) was significantly (p<0.05) upregulated in both plastic and DEHP treatments after 6 days of exposure, but not after 18 days of recovery. Hsp70-like expression showed to be unresponsive to either DEHP or microplastic exposure. Clearly, microplastics and plasticizers pose a serious threat to zooplankton and potentially to higher trophic levels.

Pub.: 04 Apr '17, Pinned: 31 Jul '17

A critical view on microplastic quantification in aquatic organisms.

Abstract: Microplastics, plastic particles and fragments smaller than 5mm, are ubiquitous in the marine environment. Ingestion and accumulation of microplastics have previously been demonstrated for diverse marine species ranging from zooplankton to bivalves and fish, implying the potential for microplastics to accumulate in the marine food web. In this way, microplastics can potentially impact food safety and human health. Although a few methods to quantify microplastics in biota have been described, no comparison and/or intercalibration of these techniques have been performed. Here we conducted a literature review on all available extraction and quantification methods. Two of these methods, involving wet acid destruction, were used to evaluate the presence of microplastics in field-collected mussels (Mytilus galloprovincialis) from three different "hotspot" locations in Europe (Po estuary, Italy; Tagus estuary, Portugal; Ebro estuary, Spain). An average of 0.18±0.14 total microplastics g(-1) w.w. for the Acid mix Method and 0.12±0.04 total microplastics g(-1) w.w. for the Nitric acid Method was established. Additionally, in a pilot study an average load of 0.13±0.14 total microplastics g(-1) w.w. was recorded in commercial mussels (Mytilus edulis and M. galloprovincialis) from five European countries (France, Italy, Denmark, Spain and The Netherlands). A detailed analysis and comparison of methods indicated the need for further research to develop a standardised operating protocol for microplastic quantification and monitoring.

Pub.: 08 Aug '15, Pinned: 31 Jul '17

Spatial patterns of plastic debris along Estuarine shorelines.

Abstract: The human population generates vast quantities of waste material. Macro (>1 mm) and microscopic (<1 mm) fragments of plastic debris represent a substantial contamination problem. Here, we test hypotheses about the influence of wind and depositional regime on spatial patterns of micro- and macro-plastic debris within the Tamar Estuary, UK. Debris was identified to the type of polymer using Fourier-transform infrared spectroscopy (FT-IR) and categorized according to density. In terms of abundance, microplastic accounted for 65% of debris recorded and mainly comprised polyvinylchloride, polyester, and polyamide. Generally, there were greater quantities of plastic at downwind sites. For macroplastic, there were clear patterns of distribution for less dense items, while for microplastic debris, clear patterns were for denser material. Small particles of sediment and plastic are both likely to settle slowly from the water-column and are likely to be transported by the flow of water and be deposited in areas where the movements of water are slower. There was, however, no relationship between the abundance of microplastic and the proportion of clay in sediments from the strandline. These results illustrate how FT-IR spectroscopy can be used to identify the different types of plastic and in this case was used to indicate spatial patterns, demonstrating habitats that are downwind acting as potential sinks for the accumulation of debris.

Pub.: 10 Apr '10, Pinned: 31 Jul '17

Microplastic moves pollutants and additives to worms, reducing functions linked to health and biodiversity.

Abstract: Inadequate products, waste management, and policy are struggling to prevent plastic waste from infiltrating ecosystems [1, 2]. Disintegration into smaller pieces means that the abundance of micrometer-sized plastic (microplastic) in habitats has increased [3] and outnumbers larger debris [2, 4]. When ingested by animals, plastic provides a feasible pathway to transfer attached pollutants and additive chemicals into their tissues [5-15]. Despite positive correlations between concentrations of ingested plastic and pollutants in tissues of animals, few, if any, controlled experiments have examined whether ingested plastic transfers pollutants and additives to animals. We exposed lugworms (Arenicola marina) to sand with 5% microplastic that was presorbed with pollutants (nonylphenol and phenanthrene) and additive chemicals (Triclosan and PBDE-47). Microplastic transferred pollutants and additive chemicals into gut tissues of lugworms, causing some biological effects, although clean sand transferred larger concentrations of pollutants into their tissues. Uptake of nonylphenol from PVC or sand reduced the ability of coelomocytes to remove pathogenic bacteria by >60%. Uptake of Triclosan from PVC diminished the ability of worms to engineer sediments and caused mortality, each by >55%, while PVC alone made worms >30% more susceptible to oxidative stress. As global microplastic contamination accelerates, our findings indicate that large concentrations of microplastic and additives can harm ecophysiological functions performed by organisms.

Pub.: 07 Dec '13, Pinned: 31 Jul '17

Some problems and practicalities in design and interpretation of samples of microplastic waste

Abstract: Plastic as waste-material is increasingly littering the world's environments. Small particles of plastic – microplastics – are an increasing cause of concern because they can potentially cause a range of environmental problems for organisms and for the assemblages in which they live. Particles are a potential source of impacts in their own right, or as carriers of toxins that can then become absorbed into animals or plants. As a result, there has been increasing publication of programmes of sampling to quantify microplastics, to identify what types are where and to consider the extent to which they are causing impacts. Some of the sampling is to consider large-scale patterns. Some is to gather information about temporal trends. Regardless of the objectives, much of the sampling is not adequate to provide robust data to allow comparative assessments, examine trends or, in some cases, even to be sure about the quantities of plastic being encountered. The problems in such sampling programmes have been widely discussed in the ecological literature. Here, we attempt to identify some of the major problems and their causes and to promote thinking about the available solutions, in terms of improved sampling designs. This is done in the hope that more thought about the pitfalls will lead to more seeking of advice from statisticians and those who are expert in sampling, so that better information will become available in the future.

Pub.: 28 Nov '16, Pinned: 31 Jul '17

Microplastic ingestion by zooplankton.

Abstract: Small plastic detritus, termed "microplastics", are a widespread and ubiquitous contaminant of marine ecosystems across the globe. Ingestion of microplastics by marine biota, including mussels, worms, fish, and seabirds, has been widely reported, but despite their vital ecological role in marine food-webs, the impact of microplastics on zooplankton remains under-researched. Here, we show that microplastics are ingested by, and may impact upon, zooplankton. We used bioimaging techniques to document ingestion, egestion, and adherence of microplastics in a range of zooplankton common to the northeast Atlantic, and employed feeding rate studies to determine the impact of plastic detritus on algal ingestion rates in copepods. Using fluorescence and coherent anti-Stokes Raman scattering (CARS) microscopy we identified that thirteen zooplankton taxa had the capacity to ingest 1.7-30.6 μm polystyrene beads, with uptake varying by taxa, life-stage and bead-size. Post-ingestion, copepods egested faecal pellets laden with microplastics. We further observed microplastics adhered to the external carapace and appendages of exposed zooplankton. Exposure of the copepod Centropages typicus to natural assemblages of algae with and without microplastics showed that 7.3 μm microplastics (>4000 mL(-1)) significantly decreased algal feeding. Our findings imply that marine microplastic debris can negatively impact upon zooplankton function and health.

Pub.: 23 May '13, Pinned: 31 Jul '17

The impact of polystyrene microplastics on feeding, function and fecundity in the marine copepod Calanus helgolandicus.

Abstract: Microscopic plastic debris, termed “microplastics”, are of increasing environmental concern. Recent studies have demonstrated that a range of zooplankton, including copepods, can ingest microplastics. Copepods are a globally abundant class of zooplankton that form a key trophic link between primary producers and higher trophic marine organisms. Here we demonstrate that ingestion of microplastics can significantly alter the feeding capacity of the pelagic copepod Calanus helgolandicus. Exposed to 20 μm polystyrene beads (75 microplastics mL(–1)) and cultured algae ([250 μg C L(–1)) for 24 h, C. helgolandicus ingested 11% fewer algal cells (P = 0.33) and 40% less carbon biomass (P < 0.01). There was a net downward shift in the mean size of algal prey consumed (P < 0.001), with a 3.6 fold increase in ingestion rate for the smallest size class of algal prey (11.6–12.6 μm), suggestive of postcapture or postingestion rejection. Prolonged exposure to polystyrene microplastics significantly decreased reproductive output, but there were no significant differences in egg production rates, respiration or survival. We constructed a conceptual energetic (carbon) budget showing that microplastic-exposed copepods suffer energetic depletion over time. We conclude that microplastics impede feeding in copepods, which over time could lead to sustained reductions in ingested carbon biomass.

Pub.: 08 Jan '15, Pinned: 31 Jul '17

The effect of microplastic on the uptake of chemicals by the lugworm Arenicola marina (L.) under environmentally relevant exposure conditions.

Abstract: It has been hypothesized that ingestion of microplastic increases exposure of aquatic organisms to hydrophobic contaminants. To date, most laboratory studies investigated chemical transfer from ingested microplastic without taking other exposure pathways into account. Therefore we studied the effect of polyethylene (PE) microplastic in sediment on PCB uptake by Arenicola marina as a model species, quantifying uptake fluxes from all natural exposure pathways. PCB concentrations in sediment, biota lipids (Clip) and porewater measured with passive samplers were used to derive lipid-normalized bioaccumulation metrics Clip, Biota sediment accumulation factor (BSAF), Bioaccumulation factor (BAF) and the Biota plastic accumulation factor (BPAF). Small effects of PE addition were detected suggesting slightly increased or decreased bioaccumulation. However, the differences decreased in magnitude dependent on the metric used to assess bioaccumulation, in the order: Clip>BSAF>BPAF>BAF, and were non-significant for BAF. The fact that BAF, i.e. normalization of Clip on porewater concentration, largely removed all effects of PE, shows that PE did not act as a measurable vector of PCBs. Biodynamic model analysis confirmed that PE ingestion contributed marginally to bioaccumulation. This work confirmed model-based predictions on the limited relevance of microplastic for bioaccumulation under environmentally realistic conditions, and illustrated the importance of assessing exposure through all media in microplastic bioaccumulation studies.

Pub.: 07 Jul '17, Pinned: 31 Jul '17