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Pelagic distribution of plastic debris (> 500 µm) and marine organisms in the upper layer of the North Atlantic Ocean
Egger, M.; Schilt, B.; Wolter, H.; Mani, T.; de Vries, R.; Zettler, E.R.; Niemann, H. (2022). Pelagic distribution of plastic debris (> 500 µm) and marine organisms in the upper layer of the North Atlantic Ocean. NPG Scientific Reports 12(1): 13465.
In: Scientific Reports (Nature Publishing Group). Nature Publishing Group: London. ISSN 2045-2322; e-ISSN 2045-2322, meer
Peer reviewed article  

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  • Egger, M., meer
  • Schilt, B.
  • Wolter, H.
  • Mani, T., meer
  • de Vries, R.
  • Zettler, E.R., meer
  • Niemann, H., meer

    At present, the distribution of plastic debris in the ocean water column remains largely unknown. Such information, however, is required to assess the exposure of marine organisms to plastic pollution as well as to calculate the ocean plastic mass balance. Here, we provide water column profiles (0–300 m water depth) of plastic (0.05–5 cm in size) concentration and key planktonic species from the eastern North Atlantic Ocean. The amount of plastic decreases rapidly in the upper few meters, from ~ 1 item/m3 (~ 1000 µg/m3) at the sea surface to values of ~ 0.001–0.01 items/m3 (~ 0.1–10 µg/m3) at 300 m depth. Ratios of plastic to plankton varied between ~ 10–5 and 1 plastic particles per individual with highest ratios typically found in the surface waters. We further observed that pelagic ratios were generally higher in the water column below the subtropical gyre compared to those in more coastal ecosystems. Lastly, we show plastic to (non-gelatinous) plankton ratios could be as high as ~ 102–107 plastic particles per individual when considering reported concentrations of small microplastics < 100 μm. Plastic pollution in our oceans may therefore soon exceed estimated safe concentrations for many pelagic species.

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