Fate and effects of micro- and nanoplastic in the aquatic environment

The project aims to systematically investigate plastic pollution of the marine benthic habitat, bioaccumulation of plastic and associated chemicals by benthic organisms, development of models for analysing the fate and bioaccumulation of plastic and plastic associated POPs. Focus is on shallow near-coastal seas close to densely inhabited regions, such as the North Sea and Wadden Sea. Experiments on uptake and effects of plastic on lugworms (Arenicola marina) and mussels (Mytilus edulis) have been performed at IMARES. Lugworms had an increased plastic uptake, increased weight loss and reduced feeding activity with increasing concentration of microplastic in the sediment. Investigating POP transfer, a small increase in bioaccumulation of PCBs was found by exposing lugworms to a low plastic concentration. Mussels reduced their filtering activity and increased pseudofaeces production with increased exposure to nanoplastic. The observed effects might have a negative impact on the fitness of lugworms an mussels and most likely apply to other organisms as well, which calls for further investigation. Apart from being present in water and sediment of the aquatic environment, microplastic was found in the marine food web, even up until humpback whales.


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Besseling, E., Foekema, E.M., Van Franeker, J. a., Leopold, M.F., Kühn, S., Bravo Rebolledo, E.L., Heße, E., Mielke, L., IJzer, J., Kamminga, P., Koelmans, a. a., 2015. Microplastic in a macro filter feeder: Humpback whale Megaptera novaeangliae. Mar. Pollut. Bull. 95, 248–252. doi:10.1016/j.marpolbul.2015.04.007

Besseling, E., Wang, B., Lürling, M., Koelmans, A.A., 2014. Nanoplastic affects growth of S. obliquus and reproduction of D. magna. Environ. Sci. Technol. 48, 12336–12343. doi:10.1021/es503001d

Besseling, E., Foekema, E.M., Koelmans, A.A., 2014. Verkennend onderzoek microplastic in het beheersgebied van Waterschap Rivierenland, Projectrapport, p1-18.

Koelmans, A.A., Besseling, E., Foekema, E.M., 2014. Leaching of plastic additives to marine organisms. Environ. Pollut. 187, 49–54.

Fate and effects of micro- and nanoplastic in the aquatic environment