Microplastics do not increase bioaccumulation of petroleum hydrocarbons in Arctic zooplankton but trigger feeding suppression under co-exposure conditions

R. Almeda*, R. Rodriguez-Torres, S. Rist, M.H.S. Winding, P. Stief, B. H. Hansen, T. Gissel Nielsen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


Arctic sea ice has alarmingly high concentrations of microplastics (MPs). Additionally, sea ice reduction in the Arctic is opening new opportunities for the oil and maritime industries, which could increase oil pollution in the region. Yet knowledge of the effects of co-exposure to MPs and crude oil on Arctic zooplankton is lacking. We tested the influence of MPs (polyethylene, 20.7 μm) on polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon (PAH) bioaccumulation and oil toxicity in the key arctic copepod Calanus hyperboreus after exposure to oil with and without dispersant. Up to 30% of the copepods stopped feeding and fecal pellet production rates were reduced after co-exposure to oil (1 μL L−1) and MPs (20 MPs mL−1). The PAH body burden was ~3 times higher in feeding than in non-feeding copepods. Copepods ingested both MPs and crude oil droplets. MPs did not influence bioaccumulation of PAHs in copepods or their fecal pellets, but chemical dispersant increased bioaccumulation, especially of ≥4 ring-PAHs. Our results suggest that MPs do not act as vectors of PAHs in Arctic marine food webs after oil spills, but, at high concentrations (20 MPs mL−1), MPs can trigger behavioral stress responses (e.g., feeding suppression) to oil pollution in zooplankton.
Original languageEnglish
Article number141264
JournalScience of the Total Environment
Number of pages12
Publication statusPublished - 2021


  • Crude oil
  • Microplastics
  • Arctic
  • Zooplankton
  • PAHs
  • Vertical flux
  • Fecal pellets

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