Modelling microplastics in the River Thames: sources, sinks and policy implications

Whitehead, Paul G.; Bussi, Gianbattista; Hughes, Jocelyne M.R.; Castro-Castellon, Ana T.; Norling, Magnus D.; Jeffers, Elizabeth S.; Rampley, Cordelia P.N.; Read, Daniel S. ORCID:; Horton, Alice A. ORCID: 2021 Modelling microplastics in the River Thames: sources, sinks and policy implications [in special issue: Analysis and prevention of microplastics pollution in water: current research and future directions] Water, 13 (6), 861. 19, pp.

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With widespread, long-term historical use of plastics and the presence of microplastics in a range of new and existing products, there is rising concern about their potential impacts on freshwater ecosystems. Understanding how microplastics are transported and distributed along river systems is key to assessing impacts. Modelling the main flow dynamics, mixing, sedimentation and resuspension processes is essential for an understanding of the transport processes. We use the new, processed based, dynamic, integrated catchments (INCA) microplastics model and apply this to the whole of the freshwater catchment of the River Thames, UK, to evaluate inputs, loads and concentrations along the river system. Recent data from UK water industry studies on microplastics in effluent discharges and sewage sludge disposal has been utilised to drive the INCA microplastics model. Predicted concentrations and microplastic loads moving along the river system are shown to be significant, with a build-up of concentrations along the river, with increasing deposition on the riverbed. The potential impacts on aquatic ecosystems are evaluated and a review of policy implications is explored.

Item Type: Publication - Article
Digital Object Identifier (DOI):
UKCEH and CEH Sections/Science Areas: Soils and Land Use (Science Area 2017-)
ISSN: 2073-4441
Additional Information. Not used in RCUK Gateway to Research.: Open Access paper - full text available via Official URL link.
Additional Keywords: microplastics, River Thames, aquatic ecology, water quality, pollution
NORA Subject Terms: Ecology and Environment
Date made live: 07 Apr 2021 10:30 +0 (UTC)

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