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Microplastics in the riverine environment: meta-analysis and quality criteria for developing robust field sampling procedures

Lofty, James ORCID:, Ouro, P. ORCID: and Wilson, C.A.M.E. ORCID: 2022. Microplastics in the riverine environment: meta-analysis and quality criteria for developing robust field sampling procedures. Science of the Total Environment 863 , 160893. 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2022.160893

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Current sampling approaches for quantifying microplastics (MP) in the riverine water column and riverbed are unstandardised and fail to document key river properties that impact on the hydrodynamic and transport processes of MP particles, hindering our understanding of MP behaviour in riverine systems. Using ten criteria based on the reportage of the catchment area, river characteristics of sampling sites and approach, we reviewed the sampling procedures employed in 36 field-based river studies that quantify MP presence in the water column and benthic sediment. Our results showed that a limited number of studies conducted reliable sampling procedures in accordance with the proposed quality criteria, with 35 of the 36 studies receiving a score of zero for at least one criterion, indicating the omission of critical information relating to the study's sample size and the physical and hydraulic characteristics of the sampled river. On the other hand, a good number of studies adequately documented the spatial information of the sampling sites, the vertical location of sample collection, and sampling equipment used. An idealised MP sampling approach is presented to ensure that future studies are harmonised and variables underpinning MP transport in rivers are reported. In addition, a meta-analysis on MP particle characteristics from these studies found that concentrations in the riverine water column and benthic sediment are highly variable, varying by five and seven orders of magnitude respectively, and are heavily dependent on the sampling equipment used. Polypropylene (PP), polyethene, (PE), polystyrene (PS), polyethylene terephthalate (PET) and polyvinyl chloride (PVC) were the most frequently reported MP polymers, while irregular-shaped particles, fibres, spheres, and films were the most commonly reported shapes in the river studies. These results highlight the urgent need to standardise sampling procedures and include key contextual information to improve our understanding of MP behaviour and transport in the freshwater environment.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Published Online
Status: Published
Schools: Engineering
Publisher: Elsevier
ISSN: 0048-9697
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 18 December 2022
Date of Acceptance: 8 December 2022
Last Modified: 06 May 2023 07:15

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