Rivers contain hidden sinks and sources of microplastics - University of Plymouth

Research along the Ganges River represents the first combined analysis of microplastics in water, sediment and air around a major river system

Significant quantities of microplastic particles are being trapped in riverbed sediments or carried through the air along major river systems, a new study has shown.

The research, conducted along the length of the Ganges River in South Asia, found on average about 41 microplastic particles per square metre per day settled from the atmosphere.

In addition, analysis by scientists found 57 particles per kilogram on average in sediment from the riverbed as well as one particle in every 20 litres of water.

The research, published in Science of the Total Environment, represents the first combined analysis of microplastics in water, sediment and air around a major river system.

It was conducted using samples collected by an international team of scientists as part of the National Geographic Society's Sea to Source: Ganges expedition.

The research involved scientists from: the University of Plymouth (UK); the Wildlife Institute of India (India); the University of Dhaka, WildTeam, and Isabella Foundation (Bangladesh); National Geographic Society, University of Georgia (USA); ZSL (Zoological Society of London), University of Exeter (UK); and Nantes Université (France).

Many of the same scientists were involved in a previous study, published in January 2021, which suggested the Ganges River and its tributaries could be responsible for up to 3 billion microplastic particles entering the Bay of Bengal every day.

In addition to highlighting the overall abundance of particles, for the new study scientists found fibres to be the most common type, representing up to 99% of the microplastics discovered in some of the samples analysed.

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Posted On: 20/09/2023

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