THE microplastic contamination It is one of the environmental problems that threaten our ecosystems, with a growing interest for society. specifically, the Mediterranean It is one of the areas in the world with the highest accumulation of plastics.
The Mediterranean has contamination levels similar to the large patch of marine litter in the Pacific Ocean.
This sea has levels of contamination similar to those of the large patch of marine litter in the Pacific Ocean, as the large population that inhabits the area and the marine dynamics mean that the contaminants that float remain trapped in the basin, with little chance of exiting towards the sea. sea .The Atlantic ocean.
The scientific field that studies this problem is relatively new and its methods are constantly evolving, which makes it difficult to define the most appropriate terms and techniques to identify them. “Plastic materials are numerous and very diverse, with different characteristics that make it difficult for a standard structure to analyze them all in the same way. In addition, additives such as pigments or retardants add more complexity”, he explains. Laura Simon, researcher at the Institute of Environmental Science and Technology of the Autonomous University of Barcelona (ICTA-UAB).
The scientist is the first author of a study, published in the scientific journal environment pollution, which reveals that the great diversity of techniques and scientific methods used in the study of the contamination of seas and oceans by microplastics limits the current knowledge of this serious environmental problem.
These are the results of a review of research carried out to measure the presence of these compounds on the beaches and in the waters of the Mediterranean Sea, both at the surface, water column and not sediments marine. Their conclusions show that the levels of microplastics in the Mediterranean are probably higher than estimated, but the methods used did not allow them to be recorded.
Many particles are not collected
The study states that the methods used in the laboratories for sampling are very diverse, “and although this has allowed a lot of progress in this scientific field, it has also meant that much of the data produced so far cannot be compared”. Scientists recognize that this affects the scientific community’s current understanding of the problem.
The levels of microplastics in the Mediterranean are probably higher, but due to the methods used we were unable to record them.
Patrizia Ziveri, ICTA-UAB
According to the investigation, of the 3,000 samples collected in the last decade, 82.8% were coastal areas, so that the scientific community has less evidence to understand the distribution of microplastics in the open sea.
Furthermore, to sample surface water, nets with mesh sizes equal to or greater than 200 microns have been used so far, so that the particles minors cannot be captured.
Studies carried out to date estimate that the Mediterranean Sea contains 84,800 microplastics per km in its surface waters.two, about 300 microplastics per kilogram of marine sediment and 59 microplastics per kilogram of beach sand.
“The number of microplastics in the natural environment increases as their size decreases, so the levels of microplastics in the Mediterranean are probably higher, but due to the methods used we were unable to record them,” he explains. Patrizia Zivery, responsible for the ICTA-UAB research line.
Seabed, plastic dump
Most plastics float in the sea. However, the seabed is considered the throw away end where microplastics are expected to accumulate.
The sea floor is considered the final dumping site where microplastics are expected to accumulate.
“We still have very little knowledge about the mechanisms that export microplastics from surface waters to the seabed, for that we need more studies in the water column”, he says. Michael Grelaud, researcher at ICTA-UAB.
Therefore, the team emphasizes the importance of defining a common frame which makes it possible to compare results and combine methods in order to characterize the broad spectrum of plastic pollutants in the Mediterranean Sea and their potential impacts. Likewise, they demand greater international collaboration between Mediterranean countries, as currently the eastern part of the basin and North Africa have been sampled on a smaller scale.
Simon-Sanchez, L., et al. (2022) “Are research methods shaping our understanding of microplastic pollution? A review of the literature on seawater and sediment bodies in the Mediterranean Sea”. environment pollution
Rights: Creative Commons.