Factors influencing the spatial and temporal distribution of microplastics at the sea surface – A year-long monitoring case study from the urban Kiel Fjord, southwest Baltic Sea

Ory, Nicolas C., Lehmann, Andreas, Javidpour, Jamileh, Stöhr, Rüdiger, Walls, Grace L. and Clemmesen, Catriona (2020) Factors influencing the spatial and temporal distribution of microplastics at the sea surface – A year-long monitoring case study from the urban Kiel Fjord, southwest Baltic Sea Science of the Total Environment, 736 . Art.Nr. 139493. DOI 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2020.139493.

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Supplementary data:

Abstract

Highlights:
• Microplastic abundance was overall low and not related to environmental parameters.
• High microplastic loads were found on few occasions after rainfall and snowmelt.
• Microplastics were mainly hard fragments of PE and PP in various colours.
• Microplastic contamination from the wastewater treatment plant was the lowest.
• Stormwater drains are important source of microplastics into the marine environment.

Abstract:
Microplastics are ubiquitous to most marine environments worldwide, and their management has become one of the major challenges facing stakeholders. Here we monitored monthly, between March 2018 and March 2019, the abundance of microplastics (0.3–18.2 mm) at the sea surface within the Kiel Fjord, southwest Baltic Sea. Microplastics were sampled at eight locations, inside and outside the fjord, near potential source of microplastics, such as the outlets of storm drains or the Kiel-Bülk wastewater treatment plant, the Schwentine River mouth and the entrance of the Kiel Canal. Weather (wind, precipitations) and seawater (salinity, temperature) parameters were compared to the spatiotemporal distribution of the microplastics. We found an overall stable, and low (0.04 particles/m3), microplastic load within the Kiel Fjord compared to other urban areas worldwide with comparable population densities. No relationship was found between the microplastic abundance and the environmental factors, but the few samples that yielded unusually high amount of microplastics were all preceded by rainfall and snow/ice melt. During such events, vast amounts of water, potentially contaminated with microplastics, were released into the fjord via the storm drainage system. The microplastic abundances at the wastewater plant outflow were among the lowest of our survey, likely thanks to an efficient filtering system. The results of this study highlight the importance to repeat microplastic samplings over time and space to determine with confidence baseline microplastic abundance and to detect unusual acute contamination, especially during snow and ice melting. Overall, the microplastic abundance within the Kiel Fjord was low, probably thanks to efficient waste management on land. However, improvements are still needed to filter millimetre-sized particles within the storm drainage system, which is likely a major source of microplastics into the marine environment.

Document Type: Article
Keywords: Microplastic contamination; Sea surface; Southwest Baltic Sea; Long-term monitoring; Environmental factors; Wastewater treatment plant
Research affiliation: OceanRep > GEOMAR > FB1 Ocean Circulation and Climate Dynamics > FB1-OD Ocean Dynamics
OceanRep > GEOMAR > FB3 Marine Ecology > FB3-OEB Ökosystembiologie des Ozeans
OceanRep > GEOMAR > FB3 Marine Ecology > FB3-EV Marine Evolutionary Ecology
OceanRep > The Future Ocean - Cluster of Excellence
Refereed: Yes
DOI etc.: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2020.139493
ISSN: 0048-9697
Projects: Future Ocean, GoJelly, UFOTriNet
Date Deposited: 03 Jun 2020 08:24
Last Modified: 03 Jun 2020 08:24
URI: http://eprints.uni-kiel.de/id/eprint/49795

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