Optimization of the citizen protocol for microplastic sampling in surface water with Babylegs net

, Villanueva Marilou, Durantou Lise, Lanceleur Laurent, Monperrus Mathilde, Schaal Alexandre.

Microplastic (MP) pollution in fresh and marine waters is actually widely assessed by the scientific community. Both the estimation of the volume of filtered water and the size of the net mesh are crucial information when comparing datasets based on quantity, concentration and flux of MP. Frequently, sampling is proceeding with a Manta net of 300 µm mesh size and a duration of 30 min filtration (Viršek et al. 2016). The challenge for citizen science is to develop simple and affordable tools that could be comparable to standardised methods. The Babylegs net, a device consisting of a plastic bottle cut on each end for the opening, extended with baby's tights as a net. The improvement of this handicraft system, which is inexpensive and easy to use, will make the MP collection and the sharing of usable results accessible to all. The aim of this project is to compare for the first time, a scientific tool (the Manta net) and the Babylegs net in the sampling of MP in freshwater. A sampling campaign of 14 samples was performed at three sites in the Adour River catchment area (France). These samples were analysed according to the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration method. Each MP was then measured using the CoolingTech software. The average concentration obtained is 1.7 ± 0.5 items/m³ for the Manta net and 1.3 ± 0.3 items/m³ for the Babylegs net. No significant difference in concentration between the two sampling systems was observed. However, small differences in the particle size distribution were measured between the two devices, with fewer fragments smaller than 0.6 mm sampled by Babylegs, certainly lost by the widening of the tights mesh. These results validate the use of Babylegs device for the MP monitoring and led to recommendations for the use and the optimization of this method.

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