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Trophic transfer of microplastics and the ecological impacts on flatfish

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  • Universiteit Gent; Faculteit Bio-ingenieurswetenschappen; Vakgroep Toegepaste Ecologie en Milieubiologie; Laboratorium voor Milieutoxicologie en Aquatische Ecologie (GhEnToxLab), more
  • Vlaamse overheid; Beleidsdomein Economie, Wetenschap en Innovatie; Agentschap voor Innovatie door Wetenschap en Technologie (IWT), more, sponsor

The world’s seas and oceans are littered with plastic debris. The presence of this plastic debris poses a threat to all kinds of marine species (seabirds, mammals, sea turtles, fish...). In the last decade, a new threat of the plastic pollution was identified: the chemical and physical degradation of these plastics results in the formation of small plastic particles, called microplastics (< 5 mm). With decreasing sizes comes an increase in the potential for ingestion by smaller organisms and (invertebrate) species near the bottom of the food chain. The presence of microplastics in ‘popular’ prey species might imply a route for transfer to higher trophic levels. Predator species of interest include several fish species. Stomach content analysis of fish originating from different seas and oceans indicated that incidences of plastic ingestion ranges from 9% to over 36%. However, all the studies performed so far focused on pelagic and demersal planktivores and predators. As a result, no data is available on plastic ingestion in benthic species, such as flatfish. Hence, ingestion by benthic flatfish will be monitored in Belgian coastal waters. This monitoring will comprise the standard stomach content analysis, but a chemical monitoring will also will also be included. For this chemical monitoring, muscle tissue and liver of fish will be analysed for the presence of plastic additives (for instance bisphenol A) as an indicator of exposure to microplastics.

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