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THE ABUNDANCE AND DISTRIBUTION OF NANOPLASTICS IN THE CALIFORNIA CURRENT AND THE NORTH PACIFIC SUBTROPICAL GYRE, IMAGED WITH A NOVEL METHOD

Microplastics have been a concern in plastic research for some time, but the smallest microplastics (<300 μm, here termed nanoplastics) have been excluded from most research, due to the fact that almost all collections of smaller plastics have been conducted with plankton nets. The nanoplastics flow through the mesh of nets. These smallest particles have the potential to be the most abundant plastic in the ocean, due to the fact that plastics break down into multiple smaller and smaller pieces as they weather. There are no true abundance estimates of this smallest size class of nanoplastics. Using metal buckets to capture all sizes of particles, we filtered surface seawater on three research cruises, two in the California Current and one traversing the North Pacific Subtropical Gyre. We imaged the plastics on polycarbonate filters with epifluorescence microscopy, an alternative technique to laser Raman spectroscopy and FTIR spectroscopy. We adapted epifluorescence microscopy protocols to avoid highlighting DNA and fluorescent cells, thus allowing us to exclusively count plastics. In so doing, we were able to estimate the abundances and spatial distributions of different types of plastic particles. We found high abundances of these smallest microplastics, orders of magnitude higher than earlier published estimates that excluded the smallest size classes.

Authors

Brandon, J. A., Scripps Institution of Oceanography, UCSD, USA, jabrando@ucsd.edu

Freibott, A., Scripps Institution of Oceanography, UCSD, USA, afreibott@ucsd.edu

Taylor, A., Scripps Institution of Oceanography, UCSD, USA, agtaylor78@gmail.com

Ohman, M. D., Scripps Institution of Oceanography, UCSD, USA, mohman@ucsd.edu

Details

Poster presentation

Session #:011
Date: 03/03/2017
Time: 15:30 - 16:30
Location: Poster/Exhibit Hall

Presentation is given by student: Yes

PosterID: 138