Environmental Chemistry Environmental Chemistry Society
Environmental problems - Chemical approaches
RESEARCH ARTICLE

Occurrence, relative abundance and spatial distribution of microplastics and zooplankton NW of Sardinia in the Pelagos Sanctuary Protected Area, Mediterranean Sea

Cristina Panti A , Matteo Giannetti A B , Matteo Baini A E , Fabrizio Rubegni C , Roberta Minutoli D and Maria Cristina Fossi A
+ Author Affiliations
- Author Affiliations

A Department of Environmental, Earth and Physical Sciences, University of Siena, Via P. A. Mattioli 4, I-53100, Siena, Italy.

B Department of Life Sciences, University of Siena, Via A. Moro 2, I-53100, Siena, Italy.

C Technical Department Civil Engineering and Marine Works, Tuscany Region, Corso Carducci 57, I-58100, Grosseto, Italy.

D Department of Biological and Environmental Sciences, University of Messina, Viale F. Stagno D’Alcontres, 31, I-98166, Messina, Italy.

E Corresponding author. Email: matteo.baini@unisi.it

Environmental Chemistry 12(5) 618-626 https://doi.org/10.1071/EN14234
Submitted: 1 November 2014  Accepted: 8 May 2015   Published: 1 September 2015

Environmental context. Plastic materials are accumulating in the marine environment where they can now be found in the remotest areas of the world's oceans. Microplastics (plastic particles ≤5 mm), abundant in marine surface waters, are also found in neritic and pelagic waters of Mediterranean marine protected areas. Microplastics can accumulate along marine food chains, having noxious effects on marine organisms at different trophic levels and creating a serious threat to marine ecosystems.

Abstract. Floating plastic debris tends to fragment into smaller pieces, termed microplastics, which may increase the likelihood of ingestion of plastics by marine organisms entering the food web. This study analyses the amount and spatial distribution of microplastics and zooplankton in an area near Asinara National Park (NW Sardinia) and overlapping the Pelagos Sanctuary (Mediterranean Sea). Analysis showed microplastics in 81 % of the 27 samples analysed, with a mean value of 0.17 ± 0.32 items m–3. From geographic information system processing of the data, microplastics appeared more abundant (by a factor of four) in the pelagic than in the neritic environment, and showed a size range of the same order as major zooplanktonic taxa determined in the area. These findings suggest a potential risk of mesozooplankton and species preying on plankton mistaking microplastics for food. Further functional and toxicological studies are therefore necessary to assess the hazard associated with microplastics in the marine food web.


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