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Presence and abundance of microplastics in the Thames River Basin, UK

Horton, Alice A.; Lahive, Elma; Svendsen, Claus; Williams, Richard J.; Read, Daniel S.; Spurgeon, David J.. 2015 Presence and abundance of microplastics in the Thames River Basin, UK. [Poster] In: SETAC Europe 25th Annual Meeting, Barcelona, 3-7 May 2015. Wallingford, UK, NERC/Centre for Ecology & Hydrology. (Unpublished)

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Abstract/Summary

The global increase in plastic production has led to growing concern about the environmental impacts of plastics and their degradation products. Microplastics have been extensively observed and studied in the marine environment but little is known about their presence and abundance in freshwater environments. Although rivers are recognised as a significant source of microplastics to the oceans, they are seldom considered in studies of the environmental presence of microplastics and there are no data reported to date on microplastics in UK rivers (or indeed any freshwater bodies). This study aimed to identify and quantify the abundance and types of plastics in the Thames Basin where population densities and sewage inputs are well described. Ten sampling sites on the River Thames and its tributaries were selected, ranging from densely populated, urban areas to sparsely populated, rural areas. Sites are all downstream of sewage treatment works (STWs) serving known populations, allowing correlation between population density with plastic types and abundances found. In addition samples were collected from sites at known distances downstream of STW outfalls, as well as the effluent itself, to try and establish the proportion of plastics directly entering from STWs, and its fate and transport pathways. River sediment and water samples were collected at all sites. Sediment samples were initially searched by eye, followed by flotation and overflowing using ZnCl2 solution. Plastics collected from the sediments were subsequently identified by Raman spectroscopy. Initial observations indicate that coloured and manmade particles are obviously visible in sediments from sites with high population densities compared to few evident manmade particles in sediments from areas with low population densities. Further analysis will allow for correlation of the plastic types and abundance with population density and sewage inputs to understand the distribution of plastics in river systems.

Item Type: Publication - Conference Item (Poster)
CEH Sections: Acreman
Rees (from October 2014)
Additional Keywords: microplastic, pollution, Thames, Raman
NORA Subject Terms: Ecology and Environment
Date made live: 01 Jun 2015 09:18 +0 (UTC)
URI: http://nora.nerc.ac.uk/id/eprint/510906

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