Microplastics on sandy beaches of the southern Baltic Sea
Microplastic occurrence and composition were investigated along the Polish coast (southern Baltic Sea) on 12 beaches differing in terms of intensity of their touristic exploitation, urbanisation and sediment characteristics. Their mean concentrations varied between 76 and 295 items per kg dry sediment. Fibres and plastic fragments were the dominant microplastic types. Overall, no relationship was found between their concentrations and sediment characteristics. Fine sediments were not identified as microplastic pollution traps. The highest microplastic concentrations were recorded at some urban beaches indicating that population density and the level of coastal infrastructure development are important factors affecting microplastic pollution level on beaches. On the other hand, microplastic concentrations in national parks did not differ substantially from the other beaches. Our results suggest that sediment accumulation processes may exceed microplastic accumulation, and overcome the effect of tourism and/or urbanisation, highlighting the role of the beach hydrodynamic status in structuring beach microplastic pollution.