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The biological plastic pump: Evidence from a local case study using blue mussel and infaunal benthic communities
Van Colen, C.; Moereels, L.; Vanhove, B.; Vrielinck, H.; Moens, T. (2021). The biological plastic pump: Evidence from a local case study using blue mussel and infaunal benthic communities. Environ. Pollut. 274: 115825. https://hdl.handle.net/10.1016/j.envpol.2020.115825
In: Environmental Pollution. Elsevier: Barking. ISSN 0269-7491; e-ISSN 1873-6424, more
Peer reviewed article  

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Keywords
    Biodeposition
    Sediment mixing > Bioturbation
    Marine
Author keywords
    Microplastic transport; Suspension feeding; Trophic transfer

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Abstract
    The distinct spatial variability in microplastic concentrations between marine regions and habitats calls for a better understanding about the transport pathways of this omnipresent pollutant in the marine environment. This study provides empirical evidence that a sessile filter feeder, the Blue mussel M. edulis, accelerates microplastic deposition by aggregating them into sinking particulate faeces and pseudofaeces. After settling to the seafloor, the bioturbation of benthic fauna quickly buries these microplastics. Collectively, these results suggest that if such biologically-mediated benthic-pelagic coupling would be integrated into hydrodynamic transport models, the spatial variability and source-sink dynamics of microplastics would be better understood. It is proposed that microplastic pollution is monitored through sampling that takes into account faeces and pseudofaeces underneath filter feeders. The implications of this detrital pathway for microplastic transfer to the seafloor, and the role of shellfish mariculture in this process, are discussed. Studies that consider filter feeders and benthic communities from other regions, and during different seasons, are needed to validate the proposed biological pump mechanism across space and time.

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