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New Research Reports Increasing Amount of Microplastics in River Ecosystems

Research from Cardiff University’s School of Biosciences revealed that microplastics are widespread in insects from South Wales Rivers

A team of researchers from Cardiff University’s School of Biosciences found microplastic fragments ingested by one in every two insects in sample collected at South Wales Rivers. The study of microplastics in river insects investigated three different kinds of mayfly and caddis larvae. The team revealed that all samples contained plastic material irrespective of their feeding methods. According to the researchers, around eight and twelve million tons of plastics are deposited in oceans, annually, of which around four million tons passes along rivers. The team also stated that, over half a million plastic fragments per square meter are present in river bed.

The team sampled insects upstream and downstream from sewage treatment works on the River Taff, River Usk, and the River Wye. The findings reveal higher concentrations of plastics where wastewater contributed more to river flow, Moreover, plastics occurred both upstream and downstream of sewage outfalls, which showed that microplastics were entering rivers from widespread sources. According to Professor Steve Ormerod, Co-Director of Cardiff University’s Water Research Institute, urban rivers in the U.K are recovering from decades of intensive pollution. However, increasing information reveals that plastics are major threat for aquatic organisms in rivers in both towns and cities along with some rural areas.

Microplastics possess physical effects along with direct toxicity or from pollutants that they transport. Plastics in insects affect animals that pray on these insects. According to Professor Isabelle Durance, Director of the Water Research Institute at Cardiff University, despite increasing awareness of people regarding the damage caused to ocean wildlife from ingesting plastics, the severe threat of plastics in river ecosystems has been majorly ignored. Increasing measures are being undertaken by the water industry, environmental regulators, the plastics and packaging industries, and people for decreasing the impact of microplastics on environment. Moreover, the study provides more evidence of the adverse effects of microplastics along with proper assessment of its sources, movements, and effects of microplastics as they are transported between various water bodies. The research was published in Science of the Total Environment on July 20, 2018.