Laboratory testing of the behavior of microplastics in lake systems

, Elagami Hassan.

Plastics are among the most widespread contaminants on Earth. They build up with high concentrations in the different environmental compartments before reaching fresh water bodies. In thermally stratified lakes, microplastics can migrate between epilimnion, metalimnion and hypolimnion. This increases the probability of that microplastic can be ingested by filter feeders allowing microplastics to migrate through different trophic levels. In this study, the transport of microplastics in lakes is presented through systematic laboratory experiments. The settling velocities of various biodegradable and non-biodegradable particles with various shapes and sizes were measured in the settling column under laminar conditions using particle image velocimetry. The particles sizes ranged between 150 to 2400 µm. The experimental results presented that shape, size and density of the particle are the key parameters controlling the sedimentation behavior of the particles. The measured settling velocities ranged between 0.4 to 50 mm/s. Subsequently, the same particles used in the first lab experiments were incubated in a pond at the University of Bayreuth for 6, 8 and 10 weeks. The biofilm formation on the incubated particles was investigated using confocal laser scanning microscopy. Also, the effect of biofouling of microplastics on the physical properties and on the settling velocity of the particles was investigated experimentally. It was observed that biofilm-building organisms has only colonized few spots on the surface of MPs. The changes in shape, size and density of the incubated were negligible. Also, after 6, 8 and 10 weeks of incubation, no significant change in the settling velocity of the incubated particles was observed. The decrease in the settling velocity varied between 3 to 7 %.

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