Microplastic accumulation in deep-sea sediments from the Rockall Trough

Winnie Courtene-Jones, Brian Quinn, Ciaran Ewins, Stefan Gary, Bhavani Narayanaswamy

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112 Citations (Scopus)
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Microplastics are widely dispersed through the marine environment. Few studies have assessed the long-term or historic prevalence of microplastics, yet acquiring such data can inform their distribution, transport and the environmental risks posed. To quantify the distribution and polymer types temporally, sediment cores were collected from >2000 m water depth in the Rockall Trough, North Atlantic Ocean. As hypothesized, a significant negative trend was observed in the frequency of microplastics with increasing sediment age, however there was an increase in polymer diversity. Microplastics were pervasive throughout the sediment analysed (10 cm depth), yet lead-210 (210Pb) activities were confined to the upper 4 cm, indicating this layer to be ~150 years old and thus the presence of microplastics far exceed the production of modern plastic. A number of mechanisms, including sediment reworking, could redistribute microplastics vertically. Additionally, microplastics abundance was significantly correlated with sediment porosity, suggesting interstitial transport via pore waters.
Original languageEnglish
Article number111092
Number of pages9
JournalMarine Pollution Bulletin
Early online date26 Mar 2020
Publication statusPublished - 2020


  • Microplastic
  • Pollution
  • Deep-sea
  • Plastic
  • Sediment record
  • Chronology


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