Microplastic particles in sediments and waters, south of Caspian Sea : frequency, distribution, characteristics, and chemical composition

Keshavarzi, Behnam, Nematollahi, Mohammad Javad, Moore, Farid, Vogt, Rolf David, Saravi, Hassan Nasrollahzadeh and Busquets, Rosa (2020) Microplastic particles in sediments and waters, south of Caspian Sea : frequency, distribution, characteristics, and chemical composition. Ecotoxicology and Environmental Safety, 206, p. 111137. ISSN (print) 0147-6513

Abstract

This study assesses the occurrence of microplastics (MPs) in coastal and sea surface sediment, as well as water samples, collected from the coastal region of the southern Caspian Sea, Mazandaran province, Iran. A total of 32 sediment and 10 water samples were studied. The mean concentration of MPs was 15 units kg-1 in the sediments and 710 units m-3 in the coastal water. Fibers constituted by far the dominant MPs in both media, accounting for 97% of the MPs in both sediment and water samples. The MPs were mainly black in color. The dominant size of MP particles in sediment samples was between 250 and 500 µm, while the fraction >1000 µm dominated in the water samples. Polyethylene terephthalate (PET), polystyrene (PS), and nylon (NYL) were the main polymers and/or copolymers composing MPs in both sediment and water samples. The MP particles had a relatively smooth surface morphology, although signs of weathering were observed. The number of MP particles in sediment and water samples showed a general decrease from west to east in the study area. This may be reflecting the spreading of MP loading from the outlets of Sefidrud, Tonekabon, Chalus, the major rivers entering the Caspian Sea just west of the study area, and the overall decrease in the spatial distribution of touristic and fishery activity. The main sources of MP particles could be local emissions from a large number of domestic wastewater effluents and urban surface runoff due to high population density, and industrial and fishing activities in this region. This study indicated that MP particles, based on their characteristics and chemical composition, are circulated between coastal waters, and shore and sea surface sediments of the Caspian Sea, leading to their uneven distribution in the different depths. To the best of our knowledge, this is the first work studying the distribution of MP particles in sea surface sediments and also the most comprehensive on MPs in shoreline sediments and coastal waters in the southern Caspian Sea

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