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Environ Sci Technol. 2017 Oct 3;51(19):11000-11010. doi: 10.1021/acs.est.7b03331. Epub 2017 Sep 11.

High Quantities of Microplastic in Arctic Deep-Sea Sediments from the HAUSGARTEN Observatory.

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HGF-MPG Group for Deep-Sea Ecology and Technology, Alfred-Wegener-Institut Helmholtz-Zentrum für Polar- und Meeresforschung , Am Handelshafen 12, 27570 Bremerhaven, Germany.
Department of Microbial Ecology, Biologische Anstalt Helgoland, Alfred-Wegener-Institut Helmholtz-Zentrum für Polar- und Meeresforschung, Kurpromenade , 27498 Helgoland, Germany.
Department of Instrumental Analytical Chemistry, University Duisburg-Essen, Faculty of Chemistry , Universitätsstrasse 5, 45141 Essen, Germany.
Climate Sciences, Sea Ice Physics, Alfred-Wegener-Institut Helmholtz-Zentrum für Polar- und Meeresforschung , Bussestraße 24, 27570 Bremerhaven, Germany.


Although mounting evidence suggests the ubiquity of microplastic in aquatic ecosystems worldwide, our knowledge of its distribution in remote environments such as Polar Regions and the deep sea is scarce. Here, we analyzed nine sediment samples taken at the HAUSGARTEN observatory in the Arctic at 2340-5570 m depth. Density separation by MicroPlastic Sediment Separator and treatment with Fenton's reagent enabled analysis via Attenuated Total Reflection FTIR and μFTIR spectroscopy. Our analyses indicate the wide spread of high numbers of microplastics (42-6595 microplastics kg-1). The northernmost stations harbored the highest quantities, indicating sea ice as a possible transport vehicle. A positive correlation between microplastic abundance and chlorophyll a content suggests vertical export via incorporation in sinking (ice-) algal aggregates. Overall, 18 different polymers were detected. Chlorinated polyethylene accounted for the largest proportion (38%), followed by polyamide (22%) and polypropylene (16%). Almost 80% of the microplastics were ≤25 μm. The microplastic quantities are among the highest recorded from benthic sediments. This corroborates the deep sea as a major sink for microplastics and the presence of accumulation areas in this remote part of the world, fed by plastics transported to the North via the Thermohaline Circulation.

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