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Ubiquity of microplastics in coastal seafloor sediments


Ling, SD and Sinclair, M and Levi, CJ and Reeves, SE and Edgar, GJ, Ubiquity of microplastics in coastal seafloor sediments, Marine Pollution Bulletin, 121, (1-2) pp. 104-110. ISSN 0025-326X (2017) [Refereed Article]

Copyright Statement

© 2017 Elsevier Ltd

DOI: doi:10.1016/j.marpolbul.2017.05.038


Microplastic pollutants occur in marine environments globally, however estimates of seafloor concentrations are rare. Here we apply a novel method to quantify size-graded (0.038–4.0 mm diam.) concentrations of plastics in marine sediments from 42 coastal and estuarine sites spanning pollution gradients across south-eastern Australia. Acid digestion/density separation revealed 9552 individual microplastics from 2.84 l of sediment across all samples; equating to a regional average of 3.4 microplastics·ml-1 sediment. Microplastics occurred as filaments (84% of total) and particle forms (16% of total). Positive correlations between microplastic filaments and wave exposure, and microplastic particles with finer sediments, indicate hydrological/sediment-matrix properties are important for deposition/retention. Contrary to expectations, positive relationships were not evident between microplastics and other pollutants (heavy metals/sewage), nor were negative relationships with neighbouring reef biota detected. Rather, microplastics were ubiquitous across sampling sites. Positive associations with some faunal-elements (i.e. invertebrate species richness) nevertheless suggest high potential for microplastic ingestion.

Item Details

Item Type:Refereed Article
Keywords:marine plastic, pollution, heavy metals, sewage, estuary, reef
Research Division:Biological Sciences
Research Group:Ecology
Research Field:Marine and estuarine ecology (incl. marine ichthyology)
Objective Division:Environmental Management
Objective Group:Management of Antarctic and Southern Ocean environments
Objective Field:Assessment and management of Antarctic and Southern Ocean ecosystems
UTAS Author:Ling, SD (Dr Scott Ling)
UTAS Author:Sinclair, M (Mr Matthew Sinclair)
UTAS Author:Levi, CJ (Miss Charlotte Levi)
UTAS Author:Reeves, SE (Mr Simon Reeves)
UTAS Author:Edgar, GJ (Professor Graham Edgar)
ID Code:117609
Year Published:2017
Web of Science® Times Cited:97
Deposited By:Ecology and Biodiversity
Deposited On:2017-06-20
Last Modified:2018-05-28
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