Science & Tech

Citizen science study detects vast amount of microplastics in Catalan bathing areas

Citizen science study detects vast amount of microplastics in Catalan bathing areas
The examine space, exhibiting nearshore sampling areas carried out by citizen scientists over a 330 km stretch alongside north-western Mediterranean coast (A), a zoom-in on 5 seashores sampled in Barcelona metropolis (B) and a volunteer conducting a survey with the paddle trawl and a stand-up paddle board (C). The associations that supplied the construction for implementing the citizen science venture the place SK Kayak (Llançà), Ocean Cats (Palamós), Base Nàutica (Arenys de Mar), Escola del Mar (Montgat), Blue Salt School (Llevant—Barcelona), Anèl·lides, Oceanogami i Base Nàutica (Mar Bella—Barcelona), Ungravity Freestyle Company (Nova Icària—Barcelona), Manihi Surf School (Barceloneta—Barcelona), Anywhere Watersports (Sant Sebastià—Barcelona), Escola Garbí (Castelldefels), Club Nàutic (Comarruga), and Plàncton Diving (l’Ametlla de Mar). Credit: Environmental Research Letters (2022). DOI: 10.1088/1748-9326/ac5df1

The presence of microplastics within the oceans is extensively documented/reported by oceanographic analysis, however information on the air pollution within the nearshore areas are scarce as a result of entry difficulties confronted by scientific boats. Researchers from the Consolidated Research Group on Marine Geosciences of the Faculty of Earth Sciences of the UB, in collaboration with the Spanish delegation of the NGO Surfrider Foundation Europe, studied the amount and options of floating plastics within the Catalan coasts, because of a citizen science initiative through which volunteers collected 25,000 microplastics with particular nets towed from rowing boats. The outcomes, revealed within the open-access journal Environmental Research Letters, reveal that coastal areas characteristic an enormous quantity of plastic particles, the presence of which is below a fantastic spatial and temporal variability.

“The average concentrations of microplastics we found near the shore are above those previously found outside the bathing areas. We have detected higher maximum concentrations—more than six plastics per square meter—and more frequent over time. Also, there are some areas and times of the year in which these exceed by an order of magnitude the averages found in the open Mediterranean Sea and worldwide,” notes UB lecturer and researcher Anna Sanchez-Vidal.

“Citizen science is a useful and powerful tool for studying marine pollution, while it empowers citizens with scientific knowledge,” says Sanchez-Vidal.

More plastics in extremely populated city areas

These excessive quantities of microplastics point out, in line with the authors, that “there must be processes that tend to concentrate or retain plastics in the nearshore.” The examine presents some explanations, reminiscent of variations in meteorological and oceanographic situations, the upper affect of river flows in periods of heavy rains, and the proximity to extremely populated city areas with a fantastic seasonal vacationer inflow, and the concentrating impact of areas restricted by breakwaters or harbors.

“Beaches such as Mar Bella or Sant Sebastià, in Barcelona, are more protected from the wind and the waves due to these structures and could retain and accumulate more microplastics than other areas that are more exposed, which indicates a longer residence time,” says William P. de Haan, UB researcher and first writer of the article. In this sense, the areas the place the researchers detected extra microplastics have been the seashores of Sant Sebastià, Nova Icària and Llevant, all three within the Catalan capital. Furthermore, the researchers recognized a possible seasonality. “We noticed that areas such as Llançà or Castelldefels show a lower tendency in January and February, probably due to the influence of surface currents and winds that reduce floating microplastics, and a higher tendency just before and after the summer months,” notes the researcher.

Finding the origins of microplastics to create higher options

The examine didn’t solely decide the abundance of microplastics nevertheless it additionally supplied an in depth characterization of dimension, colour, form and composition that may assist decide the sources of the microplastics, which is crucial to supply options to the rising presence of plastics within the marine setting. The outcomes confirmed that foams and filaments, coming from meals packaging and fishing exercise accounted for practically 11% of the collected plastics. However, many of the plastics have been recognized as fragments, movies and sheets, which in all probability originated from the breakdown of bigger plastic items. “We could identify polyethene films and sheets, originating from the fragmentation of bags; fragments of polyethene and polypropylene, from the fragmentation of bottles or packages; fragments of expanded polystyrene, used in food packaging; filaments from fishing gears, fragments of artificial grass, etc.,” says Anna Sanchez-Vidal.

This info, starting from the bodily options of microplastics to the concentrations of every within the pattern areas, is offered on a web site with a number of visualization instruments to make these findings access-friendly for society.

From Llançà to l’Ametlla de Mar

In the examine, the researchers used samples that volunteers from eight Catalan entities had collected for seven months. From Llançà to l’Ametlla de Mar, these volunteers have been coordinated by the entity Surfrider Foundation Europe. “There was a lot of participation, and this proves that citizen science is a tool with a great potential to monitor and study the impact of plastics on the marine environment,” says Maria Ballesteros, head of volunteering in Surfrider Spain.

These volunteers went to the seaside each week or each two weeks for an hour with surfboards, kayaks and different rowing boats. They connected a web designed by the researchers to gather the floating microplastics of greater than 0.3 millimeters. The path and coordinates of those transects have been recorded on a cellular gadget and on the Wikiloc app with a purpose to register the latitude, time and distance of the trawling. Then, the collected plastics have been despatched to the laboratory on the University of Barcelona to be analyzed by educated personnel. “We were surprised by the amount of high quality and scientifically relevant data we obtained in such a short time and lower budget compared to other similar scientific projects,” stresses Anna Sanchez-Vidal.

“The projects that involve research centers and society are key for continuing with the search for solutions to the problems of plastics in the oceans,” notes Maria Ballesteros.

Research within the Catalan and Basque coasts

The subsequent step of this venture is to research whether or not the detected tendencies on this examine are maintained over time, the precise elements that result in the detected variations and the evolution within the microplastics focus within the quick and long run.

With these aims, the citizen science venture will proceed through the upcoming months. Also, it is going to increase the sampling areas to the Basque coast. “This will enable us to better understand the dispersal mechanisms and the characteristics of microplastics in a semi-closed sea in the western Mediterranean and in a relatively low populated area, but with a great fishing activity in the Atlantic Ocean,” concludes Anna Sanchez-Vidal.

Citizen science and paddle browsing to check microplastic air pollution on Barcelona’s shoreline

More info:
William P de Haan et al, Floating microplastic masses within the nearshore revealed via citizen science, Environmental Research Letters (2022). DOI: 10.1088/1748-9326/ac5df1

Citizen science examine detects huge quantity of microplastics in Catalan bathing areas (2022, May 9)
retrieved 9 May 2022

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