No increase in marine microplastic concentration over the last three decades - A case study from the Baltic Sea

Sabrina Beer, Anders Garm, Bastian Huwer, Jan Dierking, Torkel Gissel Nielsen

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Abstract

Microplastic is considered a potential threat to marine life as it is ingested by a wide variety of species. Most studies on microplastic ingestion are short-term investigations and little is currently known about how this potential threat has developed over the last decades where global plastic production has increased exponentially. Here we present the first long-term study on microplastic in the marine environment, covering three decades from 1987 to 2015, based on a unique sample set originally collected and conserved for food web studies. We investigated the microplastic concentration in plankton samples and in digestive tracts of two economically and ecologically important planktivorous forage fish species, Atlantic herring (Clupea harengus) and European sprat (Sprattus sprattus), in the Baltic Sea, an ecosystem which is under high anthropogenic pressure and has undergone considerable changes over the past decades. Surprisingly, neither the concentration of microplastic in the plankton samples nor in the digestive tracts changed significantly over the investigated time period. Average microplastic concentration in the plankton samples was 0.21±0.15particlesm-3. Of 814 fish examined, 20% contained plastic particles, of which 95% were characterized as microplastic (
Original languageEnglish
JournalScience of the Total Environment
Volume621
Pages (from-to)1272-1279
ISSN0048-9697
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2018

Keywords

  • Forage fish
  • Ingestion
  • Long-term changes
  • Marine pollution
  • Plastic

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