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, &lt;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.
Abstract: This study investigated the trophic transfer of microplastic from mussels to crabs. Mussels (Mytilus edulis) were exposed to 0.5 μm fluorescent polystyrene microspheres, then fed to crabs (Carcinus maenas). Tissue samples were then taken at intervals up to 21 days. The number of microspheres in the haemolymph of the crabs was highest at 24 h (15 033 ml(-1) ± SE 3146), and was almost gone after 21 days (267 ml(-1) ± SE 120). The maximum amount of microspheres in the haemolymph was 0.04% of the amount to which the mussels were exposed. Microspheres were also found in the stomach, hepatopancreas, ovary and gills of the crabs, in decreasing numbers over the trial period. This study is the first to show 'natural' trophic transfer of microplastic, and its translocation to haemolymph and tissues of a crab. This has implications for the health of marine organisms, the wider food web and humans.
Pub.: 26 Feb '13, Pinned: 31 Jul '17
Abstract: Microplastic pollution (particles < 5 mm) is a widespread marine threat and a trigger for biological effects, especially if ingested. The mussel Perna perna, an important food resource, was used as bioindicator to investigate the presence of microplastic pollution on Santos estuary, the most urbanized area of the coast of São Paulo State, Brazil. A simple and rapid assessment showed that 75% of sampled mussels had ingested microplastics, an issue of human and environmental concern. All sampling points had contaminated mussels and this contamination had no clear pattern of distribution along the estuary. This was the first time that microplastic bioavailability was assessed in nature for the southern hemisphere and that wild P. perna was found contaminated with this pollutant. This is an important issue that should be better assessed due to an increase in seafood consumption and culture in Brazil and worldwide.
Pub.: 13 Mar '16, Pinned: 31 Jul '17
Abstract: Apart from the physiological impacts on marine organisms caused by ingesting microplastics, the toxicity caused by substances leaching from these particles into the environment requires investigation. To understand this potential risk, we evaluated the toxicity of virgin (raw) and beach-stranded plastic pellets to the development of embryos of Lytechinus variegatus, simulating transfers of chemical compounds to interstitial water and water column by assays of pellet-water interface and elutriate, respectively. Both assays showed that virgin pellets had toxic effects, increasing anomalous embryonic development by 58.1% and 66.5%, respectively. The toxicity of stranded pellets was lower than virgin pellets, and was observed only for pellet-water interface assay. These results show that (i) plastic pellets act as a vector of pollutants, especially for plastic additives found on virgin particles; and that (ii) the toxicity of leached chemicals from pellets depends on the exposure pathway and on the environmental compartment in which pellets accumulate.
Pub.: 11 Feb '15, Pinned: 31 Jul '17
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
Abstract: Microplastics are present in marine habitats worldwide and laboratory studies show this material can be ingested, yet data on abundance in natural populations is limited. This study documents microplastics in 10 species of fish from the English Channel. 504 Fish were examined and plastics found in the gastrointestinal tracts of 36.5%. All five pelagic species and all five demersal species had ingested plastic. Of the 184 fish that had ingested plastic the average number of pieces per fish was 1.90±0.10. A total of 351 pieces of plastic were identified using FT-IR Spectroscopy; polyamide (35.6%) and the semi-synthetic cellulosic material, rayon (57.8%) were most common. There was no significant difference between the abundance of plastic ingested by pelagic and demersal fish. Hence, microplastic ingestion appears to be common, in relatively small quantities, across a range of fish species irrespective of feeding habitat. Further work is needed to establish the potential consequences.
Pub.: 01 Jan '13, Pinned: 31 Jul '17
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
Abstract: Microplastics in the marine environment are well documented, and interactions with marine biota have been described worldwide. However, interactions with vertically migrating fish are poorly understood. The diel vertical migration of mesopelagic fish represents one, if not the largest, vertical migration of biomass on the planet, and is thus an important link between the euphotic zone, transporting carbon and other nutrients to global deep sea communities. Knowledge of how mesopelagic fish interact and distribute plastic as a marine contaminant is required as these populations have been identified as a potential global industrial fishery for fishmeal production. Ingestion of microplastic by mesopelagic fish in the Northeast Atlantic was studied. Approximately 11% of the 761 fish examined had microplastics present in their digestive tracts. No clear difference in ingestion frequency was identified between species, location, migration behaviour, or time of capture. While ingesting microplastic may not negatively impact individual mesopelagic fish, the movement of mesopelagic fish from the euphotic zone to deeper waters could mediate transfer of microplastics to otherwise unexposed species and regions of the world's oceans.
Pub.: 22 Mar '16, Pinned: 31 Jul '17
Abstract: Estuarine Microplastics (MPs) are limited to know globally. By filtering subsurface water through 330 μm nets, MPs in Jiaojiang, Oujiang Estuaries were quantified, as well as that in Minjiang Estuary responding to Typhoon Soulik. Polymer matrix was analyzed by Raman spectroscopy. MP (<5 mm) comprised more than 90% of total number plastics. The highest MPs density was found in Minjiang, following Jiaojiang and Oujiang. Fibers and granules were the primary shapes, with no pellets found. Colored MPs were the majority. The concentrations of suspended microplastics determine their bioavailability to low trophic organisms, and then possibly promoting the transfer of microplastic to higher trophic levels. Polypropylene and polyethylene were the prevalent types of MPs analyzed. Economic structures in urban estuaries influenced on MPs contamination levels. Typhoon didn't influence the suspended MP densities significantly. Our results provide basic information for better understanding suspended microplastics within urban estuaries and for managerial actions.
Pub.: 28 Aug '15, Pinned: 31 Jul '17
Abstract: We investigated microplastic pollution in 9 commercial bivalves from a fishery market in China. Multiple types of microplastics, including fibers, fragments and pellets, occurred in the tissue of all bivalves. The number of total microplastics varied from 2.1 to 10.5 items/g and from 4.3 to 57.2 items/individual for bivalves. Scapharca subcrenata contained on average 10.5 items/g and exhibited the highest levels of microplastics by weight. Fibers were the most common microplastics and consisted of more than half of the total microplastics in each of the 8 species. In Alectryonella plicatula, pellets accounted for 60% of the total microplastics. The most common size class was less than 250 μm and accounted for 33-84% of the total microplastics calculated by species. Our results suggest that microplastic pollution was widespread and exhibited a relatively high level in commercial bivalves from China. More intensive investigations on microplastics should be conducted in seafood.
Pub.: 20 Sep '15, Pinned: 31 Jul '17
Abstract: This study assessed the capability of Crangon crangon (L.), an ecologically and commercially important crustacean, of consuming plastics as an opportunistic feeder. We therefore determined the microplastic content of shrimp in shallow water habitats of the Channel area and Southern part of the North Sea. Synthetic fibers ranging from 200μm up to 1000μm size were detected in 63% of the assessed shrimp and an average value of 0.68±0.55microplastics/g w. w. (1.23±0.99microplastics/shrimp) was obtained for shrimp in the sampled area. The assessment revealed no spatial patterns in plastic ingestion, but temporal differences were reported. The microplastic uptake was significantly higher in October compared to March. The results suggest that microplastics >20μm are not able to translocate into the tissues.
Pub.: 13 Oct '15, Pinned: 31 Jul '17
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
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
Abstract: Microplastics have been reported in marine environments worldwide. Accurate assessment of quantity and type is therefore needed. Here, we propose new techniques for extracting microplastics from sediment and invertebrate tissue. The method developed for sediments involves a volume reduction of the sample by elutriation, followed by density separation using a high density NaI solution. Comparison of this methods' efficiency to that of a widely used technique indicated that the new method has a considerably higher extraction efficiency. For fibres and granules an increase of 23% and 39% was noted, extraction efficiency of PVC increased by 100%. The second method aimed at extracting microplastics from animal tissues based on chemical digestion. Extraction of microspheres yielded high efficiencies (94-98%). For fibres, efficiencies were highly variable (0-98%), depending on polymer type. The use of these two techniques will result in a more complete assessment of marine microplastic concentrations.
Pub.: 23 Apr '13, Pinned: 31 Jul '17
Abstract: Microplastics are present throughout the marine environment and ingestion of these plastic particles (<1 mm) has been demonstrated in a laboratory setting for a wide array of marine organisms. Here, we investigate the presence of microplastics in two species of commercially grown bivalves: Mytilus edulis and Crassostrea gigas. Microplastics were recovered from the soft tissues of both species. At time of human consumption, M. edulis contains on average 0.36 ± 0.07 particles g(-1) (wet weight), while a plastic load of 0.47 ± 0.16 particles g(-1) ww was detected in C. gigas. As a result, the annual dietary exposure for European shellfish consumers can amount to 11,000 microplastics per year. The presence of marine microplastics in seafood could pose a threat to food safety, however, due to the complexity of estimating microplastic toxicity, estimations of the potential risks for human health posed by microplastics in food stuffs is not (yet) possible.
Pub.: 10 Jul '14, Pinned: 31 Jul '17
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
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
Abstract: Plastic debris <1 mm (defined here as microplastic) is accumulating in marine habitats. Ingestion of microplastic provides a potential pathway for the transfer of pollutants, monomers, and plastic-additives to organisms with uncertain consequences for their health. Here, we show that microplastic contaminates the shorelines at 18 sites worldwide representing six continents from the poles to the equator, with more material in densely populated areas, but no clear relationship between the abundance of miocroplastics and the mean size-distribution of natural particulates. An important source of microplastic appears to be through sewage contaminated by fibers from washing clothes. Forensic evaluation of microplastic from sediments showed that the proportions of polyester and acrylic fibers used in clothing resembled those found in habitats that receive sewage-discharges and sewage-effluent itself. Experiments sampling wastewater from domestic washing machines demonstrated that a single garment can produce >1900 fibers per wash. This suggests that a large proportion of microplastic fibers found in the marine environment may be derived from sewage as a consequence of washing of clothes. As the human population grows and people use more synthetic textiles, contamination of habitats and animals by microplastic is likely to increase.
Pub.: 08 Sep '11, Pinned: 31 Jul '17
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  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
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
Abstract: In this study, we investigated if industrial high-density polyethylene (HDPE) particles, a model microplastic free of additives, ranging > 0-80 μm are ingested and taken up into the cells and tissue of the blue mussel Mytilus edulis L. The effects of exposure (up to 96 h) and plastic ingestion were observed at the cellular and subcellular level. Microplastic uptake into the gills and digestive gland was analyzed by a new method using polarized light microscopy. Mussel health status was investigated incorporating histological assessment and cytochemical biomarkers of toxic effects and early warning. In addition to being drawn into the gills, HDPE particles were taken up into the stomach and transported into the digestive gland where they accumulated in the lysosomal system after 3 h of exposure. Our results show notable histological changes upon uptake and a strong inflammatory response demonstrated by the formation of granulocytomas after 6 h and lysosomal membrane destabilization, which significantly increased with longer exposure times. We provide proof of principle that microplastics are taken up into cells and cause significant effects on the tissue and cellular level, which can be assessed with standard cytochemical biomarkers and polarized light microscopy for microplastic tracking in tissue.
Pub.: 12 Sep '12, Pinned: 31 Jul '17
Abstract: It has been speculated that marine microplastics may cause negative effects on benthic marine organisms and increase bioaccumulation of persistent organic pollutants (POPs). Here, we provide the first controlled study of plastic effects on benthic organisms including transfer of POPs. The effects of polystyrene (PS) microplastic on survival, activity, and bodyweight, as well as the transfer of 19 polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), were assessed in bioassays with Arenicola marina (L.). PS was pre-equilibrated in natively contaminated sediment. A positive relation was observed between microplastic concentration in the sediment and both uptake of plastic particles and weight loss by A. marina. Furthermore, a reduction in feeding activity was observed at a PS dose of 7.4% dry weight. A low PS dose of 0.074% increased bioaccumulation of PCBs by a factor of 1.1-3.6, an effect that was significant for ΣPCBs and several individual congeners. At higher doses, bioaccumulation decreased compared to the low dose, which however, was only significant for PCB105. PS had statistically significant effects on the organisms' fitness and bioaccumulation, but the magnitude of the effects was not high. This may be different for sites with different plastic concentrations, or plastics with a higher affinity for POPs.
Pub.: 28 Nov '12, Pinned: 31 Jul '17
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
Abstract: Microplastic litter is a pervasive pollutant present in aquatic systems across the globe. A range of marine organisms have the capacity to ingest microplastics, resulting in adverse health effects. Developing methods to accurately quantify microplastics in productive marine waters, and those internalized by marine organisms, is of growing importance. Here we investigate the efficacy of using acid, alkaline and enzymatic digestion techniques in mineralizing biological material from marine surface trawls to reveal any microplastics present. Our optimized enzymatic protocol can digest >97% (by weight) of the material present in plankton-rich seawater samples without destroying any microplastic debris present. In applying the method to replicate marine samples from the western English Channel, we identified 0.27 microplastics m(-3). The protocol was further used to extract microplastics ingested by marine zooplankton under laboratory conditions. Our findings illustrate that enzymatic digestion can aid the detection of microplastic debris within seawater samples and marine biota.
Pub.: 01 Apr '14, Pinned: 31 Jul '17
Abstract: The amount of nano- and microplastic in the aquatic environment rises due to the industrial production of plastic and the degradation of plastic into smaller particles. Concerns have been raised about their incorporation into food webs. Little is known about the fate and effects of nanoplastic, especially for the freshwater environment. In this study, effects of nano-polystyrene (nano-PS) on the growth and photosynthesis of the green alga Scenedesmus obliquus and the growth, mortality, neonate production, and malformations of the zooplankter Daphnia magna were assessed. Nano-PS reduced population growth and reduced chlorophyll concentrations in the algae. Exposed Daphnia showed a reduced body size and severe alterations in reproduction. Numbers and body size of neonates were lower, while the number of neonate malformations among neonates rose to 68% of the individuals. These effects of nano-PS were observed between 0.22 and 103 mg nano-PS/L. Malformations occurred from 30 mg of nano-PS/L onward. Such plastic concentrations are much higher than presently reported for marine waters as well as freshwater, but may eventually occur in sediment pore waters. As far as we know, these results are the first to show that direct life history shifts in algae and Daphnia populations may occur as a result of exposure to nanoplastic.
Pub.: 01 Oct '14, Pinned: 31 Jul '17
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
Abstract: Microplastics have been documented in marine environments worldwide, where they pose a potential risk to biota. Environmental interactions between microplastics and lower trophic organisms are poorly understood. Coastal shelf seas are rich in productivity but also experience high levels of microplastic pollution. In these habitats, fish have an important ecological and economic role. In their early life stages, planktonic fish larvae are vulnerable to pollution, environmental stress and predation. Here we assess the occurrence of microplastic ingestion in wild fish larvae. Fish larvae and water samples were taken across three sites (10, 19 and 35 km from shore) in the western English Channel from April to June 2016. We identified 2.9% of fish larvae (n = 347) had ingested microplastics, of which 66% were blue fibres; ingested microfibers closely resembled those identified within water samples. With distance from the coast, larval fish density increased significantly (P < 0.05), while waterborne microplastic concentrations (P < 0.01) and incidence of ingestion decreased. This study provides baseline ecological data illustrating the correlation between waterborne microplastics and the incidence of ingestion in fish larvae.
Pub.: 15 Apr '17, Pinned: 31 Jul '17
Abstract: We investigated 400 individual fish of four North Sea species: Atlantic Herring, Sprat, Common Dab, and Whiting on ingestion of >20μm microplastic. Strict quality assurance criteria were followed in order to control contamination during the study. Two plastic particles were found in only 1 (a Sprat) out of 400 individuals (0.25%, with a 95% confidence interval of 0.09-1.1%). The particles were identified to consist of polymethylmethacrylate (PMMA) through FTIR spectroscopy. No contamination occurred during the study, showing the method applied to be suitable for microplastic ingestion studies in biota. We discuss the low particle count for North Sea fish with those in other studies and suggest a relation between reported particle count and degree of quality assurance applied. Microplastic ingestion by fish may be less common than thought initially, with low incidence shown in this study, and other studies adhering to strict quality assurance criteria.
Pub.: 29 Jun '17, Pinned: 31 Jul '17
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