Taking a step back: Using lockdown to review what we know about interactions between benthic fauna and microplastics in the environment.

, Porter Adam, Lewis Ceri, Galloway Tamara.

The pollution of the global environment by plastics is one of the great societal challenges of the 21st century. Almost all plastic pollution in the environment is predicted to sink to the benthic realm and the current levels are predicted to increase 50 fold by 2100. Benthic samples have historically been under represented in the body of literature to date due, to methodological constraints and the relatively difficulty in processing samples however as more research is gathered a general picture of widespread contamination is emerging. With so much still unknown in plastic pollution research, we believe it prudent to develop tools to identify sensitive species and ecosystems to elucidate the theoretical risk posed by plastic pollution. We believe that a fundamental understanding of organismal traits could help us to create a likelihood of uptake framework within which key species for investigation can be identified; guiding further research and enabling us to couple laboratory exposure experiments with field collected organisms in a more cohesive manner by investigating “at risk” species. We therefore present the early results collected from undertaking a meta-analysis of benthic microplastic ingestion and discuss pathways towards a risk assessment for benthic species. The aim of this study was to determine to what extent species traits (or other factors) confer vulnerability to microplastic ingestion, focusing on marine benthic species. We undertook an investigation of 1471 primary research articles returning 74 articles for final analysis after using a stringent inclusion and exclusion methodology. In doing so we identify 285 benthic associated species and over 17000 individuals who have been recorded to ingest microplastics and we present some of the early data highlighting trends found. Early results will be presented and the results discussed in relation to the risks microplastics pose to benthic ecosystems and the organisms that inhabit them.

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