In this study, the occurrence and distribution of microplastics in artificial reefs around the Ma’an Archipelago, a national marine ranching area in China, were investigated. The abundance of microplastics ranged from 0.2 ± 0.1 to 0.6 ± 0.2 items L−1 in surface water, 30.0 ± 0.0 to 80.0 ± 14.1 items kg−1 dry weight in the sediment, and 2.3 ± 1.5 to 7.3 ± 3.5 items individual−1 in fish. Most of the detected microplastics were fiber-shaped, blue or transparent, and smaller than 1 mm. Polyethylene, polypropylene, and poly(ethylene:propylene:diene) copolymer were the most abundant polymer types in the surface water samples, whereas cellophane was dominant in the sediment and fish. The appearance of microplastic pollution around the artificial reefs could be attributed mainly to the activities of the fisheries in the area, whereas the microplastic ingestion by fish was affected by the extent of microplastic contamination of the sediment. The results highlight the widespread presence of microplastics in the water, sediment, and biota of the artificial reefs around the Ma’an Archipelago, thereby improving understanding of the environmental risks posed by microplastics to marine artificial reef ecosystems and fisheries in general.
Pollution and Marine Debris
Incising continental margins, submarine canyons are key issue for understanding shelf/deep sea exchange of particulate pollutant, impact on marine ecosystem and global geochemical cycling. The occurrence and distribution of 100 priority and emerging micropollutants were investigated in sediments within the first 25 km of the Capbreton submarine area. The most predominant compounds were polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), trace metals and metalloid (TMs) (e.g. mercury, lead and arsenic), synthetical musks (e.g. musk ketone, galaxolide), UV filters (e.g. octocrylene and 2-ethylhexyl 4-methoxycinnamate, EHMC) as well as some pharmaceuticals (e.g. azithromycin, acetaminophen). Highest concentrations were measured in submarine canyon sediments, distant from the coast and were correlated with both organic carbon and fine fraction contents, where PAHs, EHMC and musk ketone concentrations up to 7116, 32 and 7 ng g−1 dry weight, respectively. Those results likely demonstrate, that atmospheric inputs of pyrogenic PAHs, and both trapping and transporting of polluted particles along the continuum shore/deep sea by the Capbreton Canyon, might lead to an accumulation of anthropogenic micropollutants. The ecological risk assessment indicates that priority pollutants raise a potentially high risk for benthic organisms (e.g. PAHs, TMs). This might raised a specific concern about how the human can impact this ecosystem.
Life for many of the world’s marine fish begins at the ocean surface. Ocean conditions dictate food availability and govern survivorship, yet little is known about the habitat preferences of larval fish during this highly vulnerable life-history stage. Here we show that surface slicks, a ubiquitous coastal ocean convergence feature, are important nurseries for larval fish from many ocean habitats at ecosystem scales. Slicks had higher densities of marine phytoplankton (1.7-fold), zooplankton (larval fish prey; 3.7-fold), and larval fish (8.1-fold) than nearby ambient waters across our study region in Hawai‘i. Slicks contained larger, more well-developed individuals with competent swimming abilities compared to ambient waters, suggesting a physiological benefit to increased prey resources. Slicks also disproportionately accumulated prey-size plastics, resulting in a 60-fold higher ratio of plastics to larval fish prey than nearby waters. Dissections of hundreds of larval fish found that 8.6% of individuals in slicks had ingested plastics, a 2.3-fold higher occurrence than larval fish from ambient waters. Plastics were found in 7 of 8 families dissected, including swordfish (Xiphiidae), a commercially targeted species, and flying fish (Exocoetidae), a principal prey item for tuna and seabirds. Scaling up across an ∼1,000 km2 coastal ecosystem in Hawai‘i revealed slicks occupied only 8.3% of ocean surface habitat but contained 42.3% of all neustonic larval fish and 91.8% of all floating plastics. The ingestion of plastics by larval fish could reduce survivorship, compounding threats to fisheries productivity posed by overfishing, climate change, and habitat loss.
Global urbanization and plastic pollution has increased the availability and variety of substrates for sessile organisms, and are intensively used by invasive species for settlement. Despite extensive literature describing the strong association between artificial structures and invasive species, little effort has been directed towards identifying the larval traits that favor this selection. Larval selection and settlement are crucial as larvae actively search and interpret environmental cues to identify suitable habitats to settle. The aim of this research was to investigate if invertebrate larvae have a preference for a particular anthropogenic substrate, and how pre-settlement behaviors vary when encountering different substrates. We used two invasive bryozoan species, Bugula flabellata and Bugula neritina, which are commonly found in urbanized areas around the world. Energy expenditure during planktonic and benthonic stages, pre-settlement swimming/exploring behaviors, settlement and larval selectivity were quantified under laboratory conditions on different substrates (concrete, wood, polystyrene, polyvinyl chloride, polyethylene terephthalate and polycarbonate). The energy expenditure measured was higher in planktonic larvae than in early settled larvae. Larvae of both species swam less and explored more when exposed to plastic surfaces, suggesting a preference for this substrate and resulting in lower energy expenditures associated with searching for habitat. Larvae actively chose to settle on plastics rather than on wood or concrete substrates. The results suggest that for Bugula larvae, the likelihood of colonizing plastic surfaces is higher than other materials commonly found in urbanized coastal areas. The more quickly they adhere to artificial substrates the lower the energy expenditure, contributing to higher fitness in these individuals. The strong preference of invertebrate larvae for plastics can potentially extend the distribution range of many invasive marine species as they are able to travel long distances attached to floating debris. This phenomenon will likely exacerbate the introduction of exotic species into novel habitats.
During the production, use and disposal of plastic products, microplastics (MPs) are dispersed into the surrounding environment and have inevitable impacts on mangrove ecosystems in estuaries and offshore areas. In the mangroves of Southern China, the systematic evaluation of the distribution, characteristics and ecological risks of MPs is lacking. In this study, surface sediments (0-5 cm depth) were collected from six representative mangroves in China to explore MP contamination and its associated ecological risk. Based on the results, MP concentrations of MPs in mangrove sediments were as follows : FT (2249±747 items/kg), ZJ (736±269 items/kg), DF (649±443 items/kg), DZG (431±170 items/kg), YX (424±127 items/kg), and FCG (227±173 items/kg). The higher MP concentration in the Futian mangrove was mainly related to inputs from the Pearl River, the third largest river in China. The predominant shape, colour, and size of MPs were fibrous, white-transparent, and 500 -5,000 μm, respectively. The main MP polymer types were polypropylene, polyethylene, and polystyrene. Degradation artefacts were present on surface of MPs as well as metallic and non-metallic elements. MPs concentration in mangrove sediments increased with increasing social-economic development of surrounding districts, which indicated the clear influence of anthropogenic activity on MP pollution in these mangroves. Furthermore, total organic carbon (TOC) and silt content were positively associated with MPs (P < 0.01), indicating a facilitatory role in deposition of MPs in mangroves. Based on a comprehensive evaluation using the potential ecological risk factor (Ei), potential ecological risk (RI), polymer risk index (H) and pollution load index (PLI), MPs were found to present ecological risks in these mangroves, with the highest risk occurring in the Futian mangrove.
This study combines published datasets with unpublished data on plastic ingestion in several North Sea fish species. The combined dataset of 4389 individuals from 15 species allows the analysis of spatial distribution and temporal variability of plastic uptake in fish. Airborne fibre contamination was observed to be the main contributor to fibres encountered in the samples. The number of fibres in samples was strongly related to the time needed to process a sample, not to the number of individual fishes in the sample. Accurate correction for secondary fibre contamination was not possible, but corrections required would be similar to fibre numbers observed in the samples. Consequently, all fibres were omitted from further analysis. The frequency of occurrence and the average number of plastics in fish is generally low (1.8% and 0.022 pieces per organism respectively), with only cod having a higher prevalence (12.3%). While latitude of catch locations influences plastic uptake in fish, no correlation with the distance to the coast was found. Slightly less plastics were ingested in winter, and a decrease in plastics ingested was observed between 2009 and 2018. These factors should be considered when fish species, catch location and time are discussed as indicators for plastic pollution in the European Marine Strategy Framework Directive. We recommend considering demersal cod and pelagic sprat as two species suitable for monitoring plastic ingestion in biota, both on the seafloor and in the water column.
Synthetic polymer-based materials are ubiquitous in aquatic environments, where weathering processes lead to their progressive fragmentation and the leaching of additive chemicals. The current study assessed the chemical content of freshwater and marine leachates produced from car tire rubber (CTR), polypropylene (PP), polyethylene terephthalate (PET), polystyrene (PS) and polyvinyl chloride (PVC) microplastics, and their adverse effects on the microalgae Raphidocelis subcapitata (freshwater) and Skeletonema costatum (marine) and the Mediterranean mussel Mytilus galloprovincialis. A combination of non-target and target chemical analysis revealed a number of organic and metal compounds in the leachates, including representing plasticizers, antioxidants, antimicrobials, lubricants, and vulcanizers. CTR and PVC materials and their corresponding leachates had the highest content of tentatively identified organic additives, while PET had the lowest. The metal content varied both between polymer leachates and between freshwater and seawater. Notable additives identified in high concentrations were benzothiazole (CTR), phthalide (PVC), acetophenone (PP), cobalt (CTR, PET), zinc (CTR, PVC), lead (PP) and antimony (PET). All leachates, except PET, inhibited algal growth with EC50 values ranging from 0.5% (CTR) and 64% (PP) of the total leachate concentration. Leachates also affected mussel endpoints, including the lysosomal membrane stability and early stages endpoints as gamete fertilization, embryonic development and larvae motility and survival. Embryonic development was the most sensitive parameter in mussels, with EC50 values ranging from 0.8% (CTR) to 65% (PET) of the total leachate. The lowest impacts were induced on D-shell larvae survival, reflecting their ability to down-regulate motility and filtration in the presence of chemical stressors. This study provides evidence of the relationship between chemical composition and toxicity of plastic/rubber leachates. Consistent with increasing contamination by organic and inorganic additives, the leachates ranged from slightly to highly toxic to mussels and algae, highlighting the need for a better understanding of the overall impact of plastic-associated chemicals on aquatic ecosystems.
Global climate change has attracted worldwide attention. The ocean is the largest active carbon pool on the planet and plays an important role in global climate change. However, marine plastic pollution is getting increasingly serious due to the large consumption and mismanagement of global plastics. The impact of marine plastics on ecosystem responsible for the gas exchange and circulation of marine CO2 may cause more greenhouse gas emissions. Consequently, in this paper, threats of marine microplastics to ocean carbon sequestration are discussed. Marine microplastics can 1) affect phytoplankton photosynthesis and growth; 2) have toxic effects on zooplankton and affect their development and reproduction; 3) affect marine biological pump; and 4) affect ocean carbon stock. Phytoplankton and zooplankton are the most important producer and consumer of the ocean. As such, clearly, further research should be needed to explore the potential scale and scope of this impact, and its underlying mechanisms.
Plastic waste has reached epidemic proportions worldwide, and the production of plastic continues to rise steadily. Plastic represents a diverse array of commonly used synthetic polymers that are extremely useful as durable, economically beneficial alternatives to other materials; however, despite the wide-ranging utility of plastic, the increasing accumulation of plastic waste in the environment has had numerous detrimental impacts. In particular, plastic marine debris can transport invasive species, entangle marine organisms, and cause toxic chemical bioaccumulation in the marine food web. The negative impacts of plastic waste have motivated research on new ways to reduce and eliminate plastic. One unique approach to tackle the plastic waste problem is to turn to nature’s solutions for degrading polymers by leveraging the biology of naturally occurring organisms to degrade plastic. Advances in metagenomics, next generation sequencing, and bioengineering have provided new insights and new opportunities to identify and optimize organisms for use in plastic bioremediation. In this review, we discuss the plastic waste problem and possible solutions, with a focus on potential mechanisms for plastic bioremediation. We pinpoint two key habitats to identify plastic-biodegrading organisms: (1) habitats with distinct enrichment of plastic waste, such as those near processing or disposal sites, and (2) habitats with naturally occurring polymers, such as cutin, lignin, and wax. Finally, we identify directions of future research for the isolation and optimization of these methods for widespread bioremediation applications.
Separating microplastics from marine and freshwater sediments is challenging, but necessary to determine their distribution, mass, and ecological impacts in benthic environments. Density separation is commonly used to extract microplastics from sediments by using heavy salt solutions, such as zinc chloride and sodium iodide. However, current devices/apparatus used for density separation, including glass beakers, funnels, upside-down funnel-shaped separators with a shut-off valve, etc., possess various shortcomings in terms of recovery rate, time consumption, and/or usability. In evaluating existing microplastic extraction methods using density separation, we identified the need for a device that allows rapid, simple, and efficient extraction of microplastics from a range of sediment types. We have developed a small glass separator, without a valve, taking a hint from an Utermöhl chamber. This new device is easy to clean and portable, yet enables rapid separation of microplastics from sediments. With this simple device, we recovered 94–98% of <1,000 µm microplastics (polyethylene, polypropylene, polyvinyl chloride, polyethylene terephthalate, and polystyrene). Overall, the device is efficient for various sizes, polymer types, and sediment types. Also, microplastics collected with this glass-made device remain chemically uncontaminated, and can, therefore, be used for further analysis of adsorbing contaminants and additives on/to microplastics.