Marine (micro)plastic litter and pollutant metals interaction: a possible pathway from marine environment to human
Project will study marine plastic litter and trace metals (TM) interaction, especially primary pollutants Hg, Cd, Pb and Cu in the coastal areas.
With annual production of 350 megatons (and rising), plastics have been recognized as one of the main pollutants, long-living, slowly decomposing and accumulating in oceans, while Adriatic becomes one of the most polluted seas regarding plastic litter. Another hazardous component in ocean are TMs that pose a substantial threat for the human health and marine biota. Once TM interact with marine plastic litter, hence concentrate/accumulate, it could become threat for the various coastal ecosystems.
Interdisciplinary research involves wide spectrum of scientists and experts in the fields of oceanology, analytical chemistry, polymer chemistry, geology, biology and ecological modelling. Specific objectives are: characteristics assessment of polymer, and microplastics from marine environment; studying TM adsorption on unused polymers and on environmental microplastics; analysing TM distribution in coastal waters, sediments, microplastics and marine organisms as a possible direct and/or indirect threat to human, as well as the processes that govern TM biogeochemical cycles among them; study the effects of organic matter as well as specific marine microorganism communities (microbiome) from sediment on TM interaction with microplastics.
We will use the most recent approaches utilizing electrochemical and spectrometric techniques. Results will enable us to develop an ecological model of TM-microplastics interactions, to predict TM-microplastic impact on coastal ecosystems and to find optimal method in weakening its threat.
The specific objectives are selected to enable the outcome of the project be valuable not only to the broad scientific community, but also to end-users such as authorities that manage coastal zones. New findings can be the basis for a better risk assessment in order to improve the environmental quality.
Objectives of the Project
The overall goal of the proposed research is to explain and to extend the knowledge on the interaction of trace metals (TM), especially primary pollutants Hg, Cd, Pb and Cu with marine plastic litter and their negative effects on the marine ecosystems, and to understand their possible pathway from the marine environment to the humans. Specific objectives are:
- Analysis of physical and chemical properties of unused (preproduction) polymer and (micro)plastics from the marine environment (beach, sediment, seawater, marine benthic organisms) with adsorption experiments of TM onto preproduction polymer material will be pursued by field work and by laboratory experiments. Furthermore, internal database of the most common types of plastics found in the environment, primarily in the sea, will be established, which raises the quality and accuracy of the data. Studying of TM interaction/adsorption on unused (preproduction) microplastics by model experiments will enable us to understand more how plastics/TM interaction occur under changing physical and chemical parameters that exist in marine environment with variation of salinity, pH and temperature.
- TM concentration and distribution in seawater, sediment, (micro)plastics and marine organisms as a possible direct and/or indirect threat to human, will be the major step forward to recognise the natural processes that govern TM biogeochemical cycle among them.
- Composition of microorganism communities (microbiome) in sediment will be analysed by NGS method of environmental DNA (eDNA) sequencing. Completing of this important objective will help us to understand which type of microbiome is attached onto microplastics in specific type of sediment and to correlate it with specific trace metal and its quantity.
- Investigation of organic matter (OM) influence on microplastics interaction with TM will be obtained because OM is a crucial parameter that governs the biogeochemical cycle of TM, hence it will be very important for TM and microplastics interaction in marine environment.
- After collecting the great majority of measured data, during the last two years of the project we will develop the model for the contribution of (micro)plastics to the biogeochemical cycle of TM in the environment. We believe that obtaining of this objective will contribute to the better understanding of marine plastic litter influence on TM and how their combined characteristics can affect the coastal ecosystems in general.
- Ana-Marija Cindrić, PhD, Ruđer Bošković Institute, Division for Marine and Environmental Research
- Neven Cukrov, PhD, Ruđer Bošković Institute, Division for Marine and Environmental Research
- Hana Fajković, PhD, University of Zagreb, Faculty of Science, Department of Geology
- Stanislav Frančišković Bilinski, PhD, Ruđer Bošković Institute, Division for Marine and Environmental Research
- Jasminka Klanjšček, PhD, Ruđer Bošković Institute, Division for Marine and Environmental Research
- Željko Kwokal, external associate at Ruđer Bošković Institute
- Zrinka Ljubešić, PhD, University of Zagreb, Faculty of Science, Department of Biology
- Kristina Pikelj, PhD, University of Zagreb, Faculty of Science, Department of Geology
- Irina Pucić, PhD, Ruđer Bošković Institute, Division of Materials Chemistry