Factors Influencing the Spatial Variation of Microplastics on High-Tidal Coastal Beaches in Korea

In-Sung Kim, Doo-Hyeon Chae, Seung-Kyu Kim, SooBong Choi, Seung-Bum Woo
Archives of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology 2015, 69 (3): 299-309
The presence and distribution characteristics of microplastics become a big issue due to the adverse effects on marine organisms caused by not only microplastics but any incorporated and/or adsorbed pollutants. Distribution of microplastics (50- to 5000-μm size) was determined for three sandy beaches on an isolated island in a high-tidal costal region to elucidate spatial distributions in relation to beach locations. The abundances of microplastics (n = 21) measured were 56-285,673 (46,334 ± 71,291) particles/m(2) corresponding to the highest level globally. Out of observed polymer types, expanded polystyrene was overwhelmingly dominant. Although lying toward the estuary of the largest river in the country, the north-side beach contained a 100-fold lower abundance than two south-side beaches that faced southerly wind and currents that were prevalent throughout the study season. In addition, distinct differences between the beaches on either side were also present in terms of size distribution and spatial homogeneity of microplastics on the same beach. Winds and currents are therefore considered to be the driving forces in the distribution of microplastics.

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