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HowmuchmicroplasticdoestheBalticSeawashupontothebeachesofSchleswig-Holstein?Inordertoanswerthisquestion,aprojectoftheClusterofExcellence"TheFutureOcean"isperformingadetailedanalysisofsandsamplesfrom10locations.

Sediment sample
DennisBernecke

Forthestudy,sedimentsamplesweretakenattenbeachesoftheBalticSea,andplacedinjars.Thepollutionwithmicroplasticusuallycannotbeidentifiedwiththenakedeye.

Float,sieveandcount-thisisbasicallyhowyoumeasurethequantityofmicroplasticinasandsample.Whatsoundssosimple,isinpracticeatime-consumingprocedure.Firstofall,thelighterplasticmustbeseparatedfromtheheaviersand.Forthispurpose,thesampleismixedwithaliquidwhichispreparedwithaspecificdensity.Itisstirredrepeatedlytoseparatetheplasticparticlesfromthesandandenablethemtofloat.Thenthesupernatantispouredthroughsieveswithdifferentmeshsizes.Whatremainsinthesievesisthencentrifugedandappliedontoafibreglassfilter.Onlythencanyoucount,particlebyparticle.Alightopticalmicroscopeisused,becausetheplasticparticlesareonlymicrometrestomillimetresinsize.Errorsaretobeexpectedhere,alsobecauseitisdifficulttoclearlyidentifytheparticularlysmallparticlesasplastics,"saidDrMatthiasHaeckelfromthemarinebiogeochemistryresearchareaattheGEOMARHelmholtzCentreforOceanResearchKiel.

Inordertoreliablyandaccuratelymeasuretheamountofmicroplasticinthesand,high-techisrequired.Therefore,Haeckelandhisteamuseandarerefiningtheso-calledRamanspectroscopytechnique.Thedevicedetectsthequantityofparticlesandcharacterisesthemchemically.Foreachindividualparticleonthefilter,thisproceduredeliversacompletespectrumintheinfra-redrange."Wecanusethisspectrumtoidentifythepolymer,inotherwordswhatkindofplasticitis,"saidHaeckel.Allinall,theanalysisofasandsampletakesapproximatelytwoweeks.

Thisgivesrisetothequestion,whyisallthisnecessary?Theexactanalysisisimportant,assuredHaeckel."Wesimplywanttobetterunderstandhowwhichwasteendsupintheocean.Polyethyleneandpolypropyleneforbeveragebottlesandplasticbagsaccountforthebiggestshareofplasticsproduced.Butarethesealsothesubstanceswhichareprimarilydepositedintheenvironment?Ifwewanttodevelopregulations,itisimportanttoknowexactlywhatishappeningwiththeplastic."

Apartfromthat,thedataavailableoncontaminationwithmicroplasticisaltogetherquitesparse.ThiswashighlightedbyDrMarkLenzfromthebenthicecologyworkinggroupatGEOMAR:"WeknowvirtuallynothingaboutthepollutionoftheBalticSeawithmicroplastic.ThatiswhywehavedecidedtoconductthefirstmonitoringalongtheBalticSeacoastofSchleswig-Holstein,todeterminethestatusquo."The"MicroplasticonourCoasts"projectbytheKielClusterofExcellence"TheFutureOcean"willprovideinitialinformationaboutthequantityofmicroplasticinthebeachsandalongSchleswig-Holstein'sBalticcoast.Forthispurpose,sedimentsamplesweretakenfromthewashmarginatatotaloftenlocationsbetweentheFlensburgFjordandtheBayofLbeckinspringandautumn2018,andsubsequentlyanalysedinthelaboratory.

"Inadditiontothesandsamples,wealsocollectedplasticwastelyingonthebeach.Weareinterestedinwhetherthepolymercompositioncorrelateswiththatofthebigplasticwaste.Thatwouldbeanindicationthatthemicroplasticoriginatesfromthedisintegrationofthelargepiecesofplasticonsite.Wedonotknowifthatisthecase.Itcouldalsooriginateelsewhere,"saidLenz.

Thisisoneoftheopenquestions.Theinterdisciplinaryteamalsowantstofindouthowtheplasticisdistributedintheregion,andwhetherthereareseasonaldifferences.Isthereperhapsmoremicroplasticinthesandattheendofthebathingseasonthanattheendofwinter,whenstormshavedisturbedthesedimentandpotentiallyremovedplastic?Itisalsoconceivablethatbeacheswhichareuseddifferently,mayexhibitdifferentdegreesofpollution.

TheprojectwillbeaccompaniedbyapublicityandeducationalcampaignrunbytheKielerForschungswerkstatt(KielResearchWorkshop)."Wehaveproducedvideoclipstoprovideinformationaboutthetakingofsamples,thelaboratoryanalysisandtheresults,"saidDennisBrenneckefromtheozean:labor(ocean:laboratory)."Withthevideos,wewanttoshowhowyoumeasureplasticintheenvironment,andthatthisisnotsoeasy."Inparallel,anewsix-hourprogrammeonthetopicofplasticwasteintheworldsoceansstartedatthebeginningofthe2018/19schoolyear.Inadaycourse,girlsandboysingrades7to10canaddressthisissueindetail.Inaddition,theycanlearnwhateachandeveryoneofuscandoagainstthepollutionoftheoceans.TheKielerForschungswerkstattalsooffersteachertrainingthroughawebinar,i.e.anonlineseminar,onthetopicofplasticwaste.

Author:KerstinNees

Theresearchersarereportingontheiractivitiesinablog:
www.oceanblogs.org/mikroplastik54n

The"MicroplasticonourCoastsproject,whichwasinitiatedbytheClusterofExcellence"TheFutureOcean",issystematicallyanalysingthepollutionofSchleswig-Holstein'sBalticSeacoastwithmicroplasticforthefirsttime.Video:youtu.be/SE7Xcv7X08Y

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