I am writing to share a new Research Topic special issue in Frontiers in Environmental Science whose title is Microplastics in the Marine Environment: Sources, Distribution, Biological Effects and Socio-Economic Impacts.
About this Research Topic:
Microplastic pollution is among the global environmental concerns of the 21st century due to its transboundary distribution and persistence in marine ecosystems. Increasing amounts have been recorded in the sedimentary cycle of marine environments, making microplastics potential indicators of the Anthropocene. However, efforts to mitigate plastic pollution are impaired by increasing annual production rates (> 340 million tonnes worldwide); by plastic material versatility, low cost and durability; by unregulated global trades; and by inefficient recycling and disposal practices worldwide. Preventing plastics and microplastics from entering the oceans must start with reducing plastic input at sources as well as improving waste management in a circular economy approach, as a long-term solution.
The widespread distribution of microplastics in the marine environment has raised several questions over recent decades regarding their sources, amounts, toxicity, fate and effects on marine food webs and ecosystems. Recently, rivers and estuaries have been acknowledged as the main sources of microplastics from land to the open ocean. Due to their size, microplastics are ingested by organisms in the entire food chain; they are also potentially transferred along successive trophic levels and eventually can reach top predators. Microplastics can potentially transfer adsorbed and/or absorbed trace metals, organic pollutants, and additives throughout food webs, with unknown implications for human health.
Despite the increasing number of studies on this research topic, it is not yet clear how hazardous microplastics within marine and freshwater environments are. Therefore, the overall goal of this Research Topic is to gather basic and novel knowledge regarding impacts of microplastics in marine environments including accurate spatial and temporal approaches, robust sampling designs and methods, modelling techniques, mass-balance models to risk assessment predictions and solutions in a circular economy approach.
Potential theme include ,but are not restricted to, the following:
- Influence of oceanographic processes and climate change on microplastic pollution;
- Identification of sources in small and large spatial scales;
- Connection between microplastic ingestion, their effects and impacts in trophic webs;
- Ecotoxicological impacts concerning plastic additives, POPs and trace metals absorbed in or adsorbed on plastics at population, community and ecosystem levels;
- Deposition of microplastics from soil, water, air and biota into the marine environment, focusing in assessing mass balances and improving modelling;
- The role of microplastic and plastic pollution within a circular economy;
- Potential implications for human health, especially by the consumption of seafood and fish species of economic importance;
- Innovation, development and modern technologies (internet of things, machine learning, drones and sensors) to identify, monitor and assess microplastics at sea; and
- New technologies for recycling, alternative materials and improvements in efficiency of waste management.
The Research Topic welcomes high quality submissions on a range of aspects related to microplastic pollution, from waste management and recycling to their sources and sinks in marine environments. We encourage original research, reviews, field and laboratory work aiming at filling knowledge gaps on microplastic pollution in marine environment.
Keywords: plastic pollution, environmental monitoring, ecotoxicology, environmental chemistry, waste management