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Field-Based Evidence for Microplastic in Marine Aggregates and Mussels: Implications for Trophic Transfer

  • Shiye Zhao
    Shiye Zhao
    State Key Laboratory of Estuarine and Coastal Research, East China Normal University, 3663 Zhongshan N. Road, 200062 Shanghai, P.R. China
    Biology Department, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, 360 Woods Hole Road, Woods Hole, Massachusetts 02543, United States
    More by Shiye Zhao
  • J. Evan Ward*
    J. Evan Ward
    Department of Marine Sciences, University of Connecticut, 1080 Shennecossett Road, Groton, Connecticut 06340, United States
    *(J.E.W.) Phone: (860) 405-9073; e-mail: [email protected]
    More by J. Evan Ward
  • Meghan Danley
    Meghan Danley
    Marine Biology, University of New England, 11 Hills Beach Rd, Biddeford, Maine 04005, United States
  • , and 
  • Tracy J. Mincer*
    Tracy J. Mincer
    Department of Math and Sciences, Wilkes Honors College and Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute, Florida Atlantic University, Jupiter, Florida United States
    *(T.J.M.) Phone: (772) 242-2429; e-mail: [email protected]
Cite this: Environ. Sci. Technol. 2018, 52, 19, 11038–11048
Publication Date (Web):August 29, 2018
Copyright © 2018 American Chemical Society

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    Marine aggregates incorporate particles from the environment, including microplastic (MP). The characteristics of MP in aggregates and the role of aggregates in linking MP with marine organisms, however, are poorly understood. To address these issues, we collected aggregates and blue mussels, Mytulis edulis, at Avery Point, CT, and analyzed samples with microspectrometers. Results indicate that over 70% of aggregates sampled harbored MP (1290 ± 1510 particles/m3). Fifteen polymer types were identified, with polypropylene, polyester and synthetic-cellulose accounting for 44.7%, 21.2% and 10.6%, respectively, of the total MP count. Over 90% of MP in aggregates were ≤1000 μm, suggesting that aggregations are a sink for this size fraction. Although size, shape, and chemical type of MP captured by mussels were representative of those found in aggregates, differences in the sizes of MP in pseudofeces, feces and digestive gland/gut were found, suggesting size-dependent particle ingestion. Over 40% of the MP particles were either rejected in pseudofeces or egested in feces. Our results are the first to identify a connection between field-collected marine aggregates and bivalves, and indicate that aggregates may play an important role in removing MP from the ocean surface and facilitating their transfer to marine food webs.

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    The Supporting Information is available free of charge on the ACS Publications website at DOI: 10.1021/acs.est.8b03467.

    • Size distribution of plastic particles collected in each of the three months (Figure S1); Microplastic size found in the pseudofeces, feces and digestive gland/gut of mussels (Figure S2); Examples of the shape factor of microplastic particles collected in the current study (Figure S3); Contaminated fibers detected in the controls after dissection of mussels (Figure S3); Information regarding marine-aggregate samples and the plastic particles identified within (Table S1); Polymer types confirmed in the marine aggregates (Table S2); Detailed information regarding sampled mussels and plastic particles identified in their biodeposits and digestive gland/gut (Table S3); Plastic types captured by mussels and identified in their biodeposits and digestive gland/gut (Table S4); Shape composition of plastic particles captured by mussels (Table S5); Microplastic abundance reported for bulk water samples worldwide (Table S6) (PDF)

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