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Potential micro-plastics dispersal and accumulation in the North Sea, with application to the MSC Zoe incident
van der Molen, J.; van Leeuwen, S.M.; Govers, L.L.; van der Heide, T.; Olff, H. (2021). Potential micro-plastics dispersal and accumulation in the North Sea, with application to the MSC Zoe incident. Front. Mar. Sci. 8: 607203. https://doi.org/10.3389/fmars.2021.607203

Bijhorende info:
In: Frontiers in Marine Science. Frontiers Media: Lausanne. ISSN 2296-7745, meer
Peer reviewed article  

Beschikbaar in  Auteurs 

Author keywords
    micro plastics; marine litter; particle tracking model; accumulation; anthropogenic impact; North Sea

Auteurs  Top 
  • van der Molen, J., meer
  • van Leeuwen, S.M., meer
  • Govers, L.L., meer
  • van der Heide, T., meer
  • Olff, H.

Abstract
    The fate and effects of microplastics in the marine environment are an increasingly important area of research, policy and legislation. To manage and reduce microplastics in the seas and oceans, and to help understand causes and effects, we need improved understanding of transport patterns, transit times and accumulation areas. In this paper, we use a particle tracking model to investigate the differences in dispersal and accumulation of microplastics with different properties (floating and sinking) in the North Sea. In these simulations, particles were released with a uniform horizontal distribution, and also from rivers at rates proportional to the river runoff. The results showed that floating particles can accumulate temporarily on salinity fronts and in gyres, and are deposited predominantly on west-facing beaches. Sinking particles moved more slowly and less far, accumulated in deeper areas associated with fine sediments, and were deposited more on west- and north-facing beaches. The model was also applied to the MSC Zoe incident of 1 January 2019, in which 342 containers were lost north of the Dutch Wadden islands in the southern North Sea, tracking two types of microplastics with similar properties (∼5mm floating HDPE pellets and ∼0.6mm sinking PS grains) to identify release locations and potential accumulation areas. We used field observations collected by a citizen science initiative (waddenplastic.nl) to constrain the model results. For these simulations, particles were released along the ship’s trajectory and at locations on the trajectory where debris was found. The simulations of the MSC Zoe incident showed that over 90% of floating (∼5mm) HDPE pellets beached within 3–7 weeks, and predominantly on the more eastern Dutch Wadden Islands in agreement with the field observations, and that most of the sinking (∼0.6mm) PS grains were still at sea after 6 weeks, and a large proportion may have been deposited on German shores. The work is relevant to Descriptor 10 (Marine Litter) of the EU Marine Strategy Framework Directive.

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