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Progress Towards Monitoring of Microlitter in Scandinavian Marine Environments

State of Knowledge and Challenges

image of Progress Towards Monitoring of Microlitter in Scandinavian Marine Environments

Microlitter consists of minute particles of anthropogenic or processed natural material. The project brings together research groups to conduct specific case studies in gradients from near urban sources such as the traffic environment and cities to the coastal water and sediments in order to study the relative occurrence of specific sources and their environmental dispersion and distribution. The conclusion were first that in sediments from the road environment (tunnel runoff water), tire particles, asphalt and road markings could be identified, and in the urban creek sediments many black particles including elastomers, charcoal-like and oil and soot where in high abundance and decreased rapidly out in the recipient. The results emphasize the role of the cities as hotspot source functions for microlitter in the coastal environment and also where mitigating measures could be directed.

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Introduction

Marine litter, including microlitter, is highlighted as one of the most prioritized stressors for the oceans and coastlines today, for example in the recent UN First Global Integrated Marine Assessment (Nations, 2016), and as preparation for the UN Oceans conference 2017. Microlitter is defined as anthropogenic particulate pollutants below 5 mm in length and comprise a wide range of material with different densities, shapes and chemical makeup. Microlitter, especially but not exclusively microplastics, have been frequently reported from accumulation zones in the subtropical ocean gyres during the last decade (Enders et al., 2015). Knowledge about abundance, size distributions, morphologies, polymer type and other chemical information, from these areas have consequently been growing. From coastal seas, there are actually less amount of published data available. Although a proportion of the marine macro litter is subject to long range transport, there are also fate processes such as weathering, fragmentation, fouling and sedimentation (Andrady, 2011) that are sorting out some fractions closer to the sources, and the types of litter that are abundant in the oceanic accumulation zones have such properties that is favouring buoyancy (low density, thick material, resistant to weathering and fragmentation, low adhesion of fouling etc.) (Enders et al., 2015). Furthermore, from beach litter inventories, it is also known that although many common types of litter objects are found all over the world, the litter composition can also reflect the local or regional litter input with sanitation articles or packaging or fishing related litter showing a higher or lower relative abundance. The compositional differences of litter in marine environments are crucial to understand sources, transportation and fate of marine litter but also to be able to assess risk and exposure.

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