Spatial distribution of microplastics around an inhabited coral island in the Maldives, Indian Ocean

Toby B. Patti, Emily K. Fobert, Simon E. Reeves, Karen Burke da Silva

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

Small plastic particles are considered environmental pollutants and are highly concentrated in marine sediments. However, knowledge about plastic abundance within coral reef habitat and beach sediments surrounding remote inhabited coral islands is scarce. In this study, microplastic accumulation was investigated on a small inhabited coral island located in the Maldives. Sediments from 22 sampling sites across fore reef, reef flat, and beach environments were analysed for plastic particles <5 mm. Density separation and microscope enumeration revealed a total of 1244 individual microplastic pieces, in filamentous (49%) and fragmented (51%) forms, found across all sampling sites. High concentrations were recorded at all sites, however, there was no significant relationship between microplastic concentration or size across regions (inner atoll and outer atoll) or environments (fore reef, reef flat, and beach). Furthermore, concentrations of microplastic fragment and filament forms, total concentration, and the microplastic community, showed little correlation with sediment particle size. Our findings show microplastics are ubiquitous in marine sediments around a remote coral island, at sizes ingestible by marine organisms, raising concerns about potential effects of microplastic ingestion by coral reef species.

Original languageEnglish
Article number141263
Number of pages10
JournalScience of The Total Environment
Volume748
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 15 Dec 2020

Keywords

  • Coral reef
  • Marine sediment
  • Microplastic
  • Plastic debris
  • Plastic filaments
  • Plastic particles
  • Waste management

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