Microplastics Alter the Properties and Sinking Rates of Zooplankton Faecal Pellets

Cole, MJ, Lindeque, PK, Fileman, ES, Clark, JR, Lewis, CN, Halsband, C and Galloway, TSG 2016 Microplastics Alter the Properties and Sinking Rates of Zooplankton Faecal Pellets. Environmental Science & Technology. https://doi.org/10.1021/acs.est.5b05905

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Official URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1021/acs.est.5b05905


Plastic debris is a widespread contaminant, prevalent in aquatic ecosystems across the globe. Zooplankton readily ingest microscopic plastic (microplastic, < 1 mm), which are later egested within their faecal pellets. These pellets are a source of food for marine organisms, and contribute to the oceanic vertical flux of particulate organic matter as part of the biological pump. The effects of microplastics on faecal pellet properties are currently unknown. Here we test the hypotheses that (1) faecal pellets are a vector for transport of microplastics, (2) polystyrene microplastics can alter the properties and sinking rates of zooplankton egests and, (3) faecal pellets can facilitate the transfer of plastics to coprophagous biota. Following exposure to 20.6 μm polystyrene microplastics (1000 microplastics mL–1) and natural prey (∼1650 algae mL–1) the copepod Calanus helgolandicus egested faecal pellets with significantly (P < 0.001) reduced densities, a 2.25-fold reduction in sinking rates, and a higher propensity for fragmentation. We further show that microplastics, encapsulated within egests of the copepod Centropages typicus, could be transferred to C. helgolandicus via coprophagy. Our results support the proposal that sinking faecal matter represents a mechanism by which floating plastics can be vertically transported away from surface waters.

Item Type: Publication - Article
Subjects: Ecology and Environment
Marine Sciences
Divisions: Plymouth Marine Laboratory > Science Areas > Marine System Modelling
Depositing User: James Clark
Date made live: 01 Mar 2016 16:21
Last Modified: 25 Apr 2020 09:57
URI: https://plymsea.ac.uk/id/eprint/6944

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