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The dynamics of microplastics and associated contaminants: data-driven Lagrangian and Eulerian modelling approaches in the Mediterranean Sea
Guerrini, F.; Mari, L.; Casagrandi, R. (2021). The dynamics of microplastics and associated contaminants: data-driven Lagrangian and Eulerian modelling approaches in the Mediterranean Sea. Sci. Total Environ. 777: 145944. https://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.scitotenv.2021.145944
In: Science of the Total Environment. Elsevier: Amsterdam. ISSN 0048-9697; e-ISSN 1879-1026, more
Peer reviewed article  

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Keyword
    Marine/Coastal
Author keywords
    Microplastics; Marine pollution; Advection-diffusion; Oceanographic reanalyses

Authors  Top 
  • Guerrini, F.
  • Mari, L.
  • Casagrandi, R.

Abstract
    Plastic pollution is widespread in the global oceans, but at the same time several other types of hydrophobic pollutants contaminate the marine environment. As more and more evidence highlights, microplastics and polluting chemicals are intertwined via adsorption/desorption processes. A thorough assessment of their total impact on marine ecosystems thus requires that these two kinds of pollution are not considered separately. Here we compare the outcomes of two complementary, data-driven modelling approaches for microplastic dispersal and for Plastic-Related Organic Pollutants (PROPs) in the marine environment. Focusing on the Mediterranean Sea, we simulate two years of Lagrangian particle tracking to map microplastic dispersion from the most impacting sources of pollution (i.e. coastal areas, the watersheds of major rivers, and fishing activities). Our particle sources are data-informed by national census data, hydrological regimes, and vessel tracking data to account for spatial and temporal variability of mismanaged plastic waste generation. These particle-based simulations are complemented with a simulation of the dynamics of primary pollutants in the sea, obtained via an advection-diffusion Eulerian model. While providing further understanding of the spatiotemporal distribution of microplastics and the dynamics of PROPs at a Mediterranean-wide scale, our results call for the development of novel integrated modelling approaches aimed at coupling the dynamics of microplastics with the chemical exchanges occurring through them, thus promoting a holistic description of marine plastic pollution.

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