Examination of the ocean as a source for atmospheric microplastics.
ABSTRACT: Global plastic litter pollution has been increasing alongside demand since plastic products gained commercial popularity in the 1930's. Current plastic pollutant research has generally assumed that once plastics enter the ocean they are there to stay, retained permanently within the ocean currents, biota or sediment until eventual deposition on the sea floor or become washed up onto the beach. In contrast to this, we suggest it appears that some plastic particles could be leaving the sea and entering the atmosphere along with sea salt, bacteria, virus' and algae. This occurs via the process of bubble burst ejection and wave action, for example from strong wind or sea state turbulence. In this manuscript we review evidence from the existing literature which is relevant to this theory and follow this with a pilot study which analyses microplastics (MP) in sea spray. Here we show first evidence of MP particles, analysed by ?Raman, in marine boundary layer air samples on the French Atlantic coast during both onshore (average of 2.9MP/m3) and offshore (average of 9.6MP/m3) winds. Notably, during sampling, the convergence of sea breeze meant our samples were dominated by sea spray, increasing our capacity to sample MPs if they were released from the sea. Our results indicate a potential for MPs to be released from the marine environment into the atmosphere by sea-spray giving a globally extrapolated figure of 136000 ton/yr blowing on shore.
Project description:The increased production and consumption scale of plastic items has led to the generation of microplastics (MPs), an emerging class of contaminants, in our environment. MPs are plastic particles less than 5 mm in size and could originate due to primary and secondary sources. The primary ones are generated as such in the MP size range while the secondary MPs are a result of fragmentation of larger plastic particles which eventually enters the aquatic, terrestrial and atmospheric environments. The increasing concern of MP pollution in every compartment of our environment is being globally explored, with relatively fewer studies in India. Among the total studies published on MP prevalence in the Indian environments, marine systems have received significantly higher attention compared to the other compartments like freshwater, atmosphere, terrestrial and human consumables. This review article is an effort to present current understanding of MP pollution in aquatic systems, terrestrial systems, atmosphere and human consumables of India by reviewing available scientific literature. Along with this, the review also focuses on identification of the gap areas in current knowledge and highlights way forward for future research. This would further help in meeting the goals of this emergent pollutant management.
Project description:Microplastics (MPs) are ubiquitous contaminants of the marine environment, and the deep seafloor is their ultimate sink compartment. Manipulative and field experiments provided evidence of the ingestion of MPs by deep-sea fauna, but knowledge of MPs' fate once ingested still remains scant. We provide evidence of MP partial retention and fragmentation mediated by digestion activity of a Norwegian langoustine, a good bioindicator for MP contamination of the deep sea. We report here that MPs in the intestines were more abundant and significantly smaller (up to 1 order of magnitude in surface) than those in the stomachs. Our results show that the stomach can act as a size-bottleneck for ingested MPs, enhancing the retention of larger particles within the stomach and promoting fragmentation into smaller plastic debris, which is then released in the intestine. Our results provide evidence that the langoustine is responsible for the fragmentation of MPs already accumulated in sediments through its scavenging activity and digestion. These findings highlight the existence of a new peculiar kind of "secondary" MPs, introduced in the environment by biological activities, which could represent a significant pathway of plastic degradation in a secluded and stable environment such as the deep sea.
Project description:Melt ponds (MPs), form as the result of thawing of snow and sea ice in the summer, have lower albedo than the sea ice and are thus partly responsible for the polar amplification of global warming. Knowing the community composition of MP organisms is key to understanding their roles in the biogeochemical cycles of nutrients and elements. However, the community composition of MP microbial eukaryotes has rarely been studied. In the present study, we assessed the microbial eukaryote biodiversity, community composition, and assembly processes in MPs and surface sea water (SW) using high throughput sequencing of 18S rRNA of size-fractionated samples. Alpha diversity estimates were lower in the MPs than SW across all size fractions. The community composition of MPs was significantly different from that of SW. The MP communities were dominated by members from Chrysophyceae, the ciliate classes Litostomatea and Spirotrichea, and the cercozoan groups Filosa-Thecofilosea. One open MP community was similar to SW communities, which was probably due to the advanced stage of development of the MP enabling the exchange of species between it and adjacent SW. High portions of shared species between MPs and SW may indicate the vigorous exchange of species between these two major types of environments in the Arctic Ocean. SW microbial eukaryote communities are mainly controlled by dispersal limitation whereas those of MP are mainly controlled by ecological drift.
Project description:Aerosols impact climate, human health, and the chemistry of the atmosphere, and aerosol pH plays a major role in the physicochemical properties of the aerosol. However, there remains uncertainty as to whether aerosols are acidic, neutral, or basic. In this research, we show that the pH of freshly emitted (nascent) sea spray aerosols is significantly lower than that of sea water (approximately four pH units, with pH being a log scale value) and that smaller aerosol particles below 1 ?m in diameter have pH values that are even lower. These measurements of nascent sea spray aerosol pH, performed in a unique ocean-atmosphere facility, provide convincing data to show that acidification occurs "across the interface" within minutes, when aerosols formed from ocean surface waters become airborne. We also show there is a correlation between aerosol acidity and dissolved carbon dioxide but no correlation with marine biology within the seawater. We discuss the mechanisms and contributing factors to this acidity and its implications on atmospheric chemistry.
Project description:The infamous garbage patches on the surface of subtropical oceanic gyres are proof that plastic is polluting the ocean on an unprecedented scale. The fate of floating plastic debris 'trapped' in these gyres, however, remains largely unknown. Here, we provide the first evidence for the vertical transfer of plastic debris from the North Pacific Garbage Patch (NPGP) into the underlying deep sea. The numerical and mass concentrations of plastic fragments (500?µm to 5?cm in size) suspended in the water column below the NPGP follow a power law decline with water depth, reaching values <0.001 pieces/m3 and <0.1?µg/m3 in the deep sea. The plastic particles in the NPGP water column are mostly in the size range of particles that are apparently missing from the ocean surface and the polymer composition of plastic in the NPGP water column is similar to that of floating debris circulating in its surface waters (i.e. dominated by polyethylene and polypropylene). Our results further reveal a positive correlation between the amount of plastic debris at the sea surface and the depth-integrated concentrations of plastic fragments in the water column. We therefore conclude that the presence of plastics in the water column below the NPGP is the result of 'fallout' of small plastic fragments from its surface waters.
Project description:Ocean-derived, airborne microbes play important roles in Earth's climate system and human health, yet little is known about factors controlling their transfer from the ocean to the atmosphere. Here, we study microbiomes of isolated sea spray aerosol (SSA) collected in a unique ocean-atmosphere facility and demonstrate taxon-specific aerosolization of bacteria and viruses. These trends are conserved within taxonomic orders and classes, and temporal variation in aerosolization is similarly shared by related taxa. We observe enhanced transfer into SSA of Actinobacteria, certain Gammaproteobacteria, and lipid-enveloped viruses; conversely, Flavobacteriia, some Alphaproteobacteria, and Caudovirales are generally under-represented in SSA. Viruses do not transfer to SSA as efficiently as bacteria. The enrichment of mycolic acid-coated Corynebacteriales and lipid-enveloped viruses (inferred from genomic comparisons) suggests that hydrophobic properties increase transport to the sea surface and SSA. Our results identify taxa relevant to atmospheric processes and a framework to further elucidate aerosolization mechanisms influencing microbial and viral transport pathways.
Project description:The European Interreg Italy-France 2014-2020 Maritime Project SPlasH! (Stop to Plastics in H2O!) focused on the study of microplastics (MPs) in the marine port environment to evaluate their presence, abundance, and mechanisms of diffusion to the open sea. In the framework of this project, a worldwide review of 74 studies was carried out, providing an overview of MP investigation techniques, focusing on sampling strategies, laboratory methodologies, and identification of MPs collected in seawater, and specifically evaluating their applicability to the marine port environment. Nets were the most commonly used device for MP surface sampling, but their use can be difficult in narrow spaces within the port basins, and they must be coupled to discrete sampling devices to cover all port basins. In the laboratory, density separation (NaCl, ZnCl2, NaI, sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS)), filtration (polycarbonate, polyamide, glass, cellulose, ANOPORE inorganic membrane filters), sieving, visual sorting, and digestion methods (acidic, enzymatic, alkaline, oxidative) were used to separate MPs from seawater. Digestion becomes essential with water samples with great inorganic and organic loads as deriving from a port. Although many studies are based only on visual MP identification under a microscope, analytical identification techniques unequivocally determine the particle nature and the identity of the plastic polymers and are necessary to validate the visual sorting of MPs. Fourier-transform infrared spectroscopy (FTIR) is the most used analytical identification technique.
Project description:Microplastics (MPs, plastics 100?nm-5?mm in diameter) are estimated to accumulate in agricultural soils in quantities that exceed the total MP burden in ocean waters. Despite a wealth of information relating to the accumulation of MPs in aquatic species, there is little information on the uptake of MPs by terrestrial plants. Information about location of MPs in plant tissues is critical to understand the modes of their interaction with plants. Polystyrene (PS) is one of the most commonly used plastic polymers worldwide and it is often found in MPs sampled in the environment. The performance of traditional detection methods (i.e., transmission electron microscopy, TEM and scanning electron microscopy, SEM) for nanoparticles is limited due to the extensive sample preparation and the limited field of view. Here we report an approach for the imaging of different sizes of PS plastic beads (ranging from submicrometer to micrometer-sized) within plant tissues by using confocal laser scanning microscope (CLSM). Fluorescent dye Nile blue or 4-chloro-7-nitro-1,2,3-benzoxadiazole were encapsulated into the PS microbeads through swelling method and they were used to detect the localization of PS beads in the root and the green tissue respectively. •This is a simple and rapid approach for imaging of MPs in plant.•The fluorescent dyes can produce bright and stable emission signals that are distinguishable from the autofluorescence background of plant tissues.•The dyes leakage in the aqueous phase can be assumed to be negligible.
Project description:Concerns are being raised that microplastic pollution can have detrimental effects on the feeding of aquatic invertebrates, including zooplankton. Both small plastic fragments (microplastics, MPs) produced by degradation of larger plastic waste (secondary MPs; SMPs) and microscopic plastic spheres used in cosmetic products and industry (primary MPs; PMPs) are ubiquitously present in the environment. However, despite the fact that most environmental MPs consist of weathered plastic debris with irregular shape and broad size distribution, experimental studies of organism responses to MP exposure have largely used uniformly sized spherical PMPs. Therefore, effects observed for PMPs in such experiments may not be representative for MP-effects in situ. Moreover, invertebrate filter-feeders are generally well adapted to the presence of refractory material in seston, which questions the potential of MPs at environmentally relevant concentrations to measurably affect digestion in these organisms. Here, we compared responses to MPs (PMPs and SMPs) and naturally occurring particles (kaolin clay) using the cladoceran Daphnia magna as a model organism. We manipulated food levels (0.4 and 9 ?g C mL-1) and MP or kaolin contribution to the feeding suspension (<1 to 74%) and evaluated effects of MPs and kaolin on food uptake, growth, reproductive capacity of the daphnids, and maternal effects on offspring survival and feeding. Exposure to SMPs caused elevated mortality, increased inter-brood period and decreased reproduction albeit only at high MP levels in the feeding suspension (74% by particle count). No such effects were observed in either PMP or kaolin treatments. In daphnids exposed to any particle type at the low algal concentration, individual growth decreased by ~15%. By contrast, positive growth response to all particle types was observed at the high algal concentration with 17%, 54% and 40% increase for kaolin, PMP and SMP, respectively. When test particles comprised 22% in the feeding suspension, both MP types decreased food intake by 30%, while kaolin had no effect. Moreover, SMPs were found to homoaggregate in a concentration-dependent manner, which resulted in a 77% decrease of the ingested SMPs compared to PMPs. To better understand MP-processing in the gut, gut passage time (GPT) and evacuation rate of MPs were also assayed. SMPs and PMPs differed in their effects on daphnids; moreover, the particle effects were dependent on the MP: algae ratio in the suspension. When the MP contribution to the particle abundance in the medium changed from 1 to 4%, GPT for daphnids exposed to SMPs increased 2-fold. Our results suggest that MPs and, in particular, SMPs, have a greater capacity to negatively affect feeding in D. magna compared to naturally occurring mineral particles of similar size. Moreover, grazer responses observed in experiments with PMPs cannot be extrapolated to the field where SMPs dominate, because of the greater effects caused by the latter.
Project description:Microplastic (MP) pollution-an emerging environmental challenge of the 21st century-refers to accumulation of environmentally weathered polymer-based particles with potential environmental and health risks. Because of technical and practical challenges when using environmental MPs for risk assessment, most available data are generated using plastic models of limited environmental relevancy (i.e., with physicochemical characteristics inherently different from those of environmental MPs). In this study, we assess the effect of dominant weathering conditions-including thermal, photo-, and mechanical degradation-on surface and bulk characteristics of polystyrene (PS)-based single-use products. Further, we augment the environmental relevance of model-enabled risk assessment through the design of engineered MPs. A set of optimized laboratory-based weathering conditions demonstrated a synergetic effect on the PS-based plastic, which was fragmented into millions of 1-3 μm MP particles in under 16 h. The physicochemical properties of these engineered MPs were compared to those of their environmental counterpart and PS microbeads often used as MP models. The engineered MPs exhibit high environmental relevance with rough and oxidized surfaces and a heterogeneous fragmented morphology. Our results suggest that this top-down synthesis protocol combining major weathering mechanisms can fabricate improved, realistic, and reproducible PS-based plastic models with high levels of control over the particles' properties. Through increased environmental relevancy, our plastic model bolsters the field of risk assessment, enabling more reliable estimations of risk associated with an emerging pollutant of global concern.