Microplastic loads within riverine fishes and macroinvertebrates are not predictable from ecological or morphological characteristics

Parker, Ben; Andreou, Demetra; Pabortsava, Katsiaryna; Barrow, Magdalena; Green, Iain D.; Britton, J. Robert. 2022 Microplastic loads within riverine fishes and macroinvertebrates are not predictable from ecological or morphological characteristics. Science of The Total Environment, 839, 156321.

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Microplastics are a relatively new but important form of freshwater contamination that can be ingested by a range of different species, with particle counts thought to be predictable from species ecology and morphology. Here, we report levels of microplastics in a 26 μm-5 mm size range within the macroinvertebrate and fish community of a lowland river (Dorset Stour, SW England), and test the hypothesis that counts are predictable from characteristics such as feeding guild, body length and trophic position. Macroinvertebrates (n = 257, 12 taxa) and fish (n = 418, 9 species) were collected from distinct river reaches by kick sampling and rod and line angling, respectively. Batches of whole macroinvertebrates and individual fish gastrointestinal tracts were digested with 30% hydrogen peroxide before microplastic screening and FTIR polymer confirmation on a particle subset. Particles were found in 40% of pooled macroinvertebrate batches (taxa incidences: 14–75%) and 39% of fishes (species incidences: 29–47%). Dominant particle feature categories were ≤100 μm, blue/green, fragments and fibres identified as various polyolefins. Although particle counts in macroinvertebrates were highest in Ephemeroptera (mean of 0.74 particles per individual), the relationships between particle loads, batch number and guild were all non-significant. In fishes, particle counts were not significantly related to species, stomach structure, feeding guild or body length, with spatial differences also not apparent across the catchment. Individual fish particle counts were similarly not significantly associated with their trophic positions (calculated from bulk δ15N values for a subset of fishes) and parasite load of Pomphorhynchus tereticollis. Correlations between fish and macroinvertebrate particle counts within specific river reaches were also not significant. In entirety, these results indicated although loadings of microplastic particles were relatively consistent within the two communities, they were not predictable from any of their ecological or morphological characteristics.

Item Type: Publication - Article
Digital Object Identifier (DOI):
Programmes: NOC Programmes > Ocean BioGeosciences
ISSN: 00489697
Date made live: 20 Jul 2022 12:40 +0 (UTC)

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