Microplastics and their possible sources: the example of Ofanto river in southeast Italy

Campanale, C.; Stock, F.; Massarelli, C.; Kochleus, C.; Bagnuolo, G.; Reifferscheid, G.; Uricchio, V.F.

Environmental Pollution 258: 113284


ISSN/ISBN: 0269-7491
PMID: 32005487
DOI: 10.1016/j.envpol.2019.113284
Accession: 069769832

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Monitoring studies have quantified microscopic plastic debris, so-called microplastics, in freshwater systems, including banks, surface waters and sediments. However, there is a lack of knowledge of freshwater and terrestrial environments. When microplastics are released in freshwater environments, they will be transported and will not remain stationary. Moreover, their transport from sink to source (land-based to river systems) may depend on several factors such as weather conditions and river hydrology. The present study aims to investigate the abundance and composition of microplastics in the most important river of Apulia Region (Southeast Italy) evaluating the main drivers and possible input sources of microplastic debris. The following work is the first study showing an Italian river context. For this research five sampling campaigns have been conducted west of the Ofanto river mouth. Microplastics were collected by three surface plankton nets fixed in the middle of the river in order to reduce the spatial and temporal variability. For each campaign, a total of six replicates were sampled during two time slots. Microplastic concentrations ranged from 0.9 ± 0.4 p/m3 to 13 ± 5 p/m3 showing comparable values to or greater than those ones reported in other studies. A statistically significant difference in the average microplastic concentrations in different campaigns of this study has been observed, suggesting thus a temporal variation in plastic abundances. These significant differences could be explained by the hydrology of the river that influences the particle concentration with its physical forces such as flow velocity, water level and seasonal variability. Microplastics were found at higher concentrations during wet periods indicating a land-based origin probably connected to waste produced by the surroundings agricultural areas. In fact, Spearman's correlation results show a strong positive statistically significant correlation between the concentration of microplastics and the water level (R = 0.8475, p < 0.0001).