A record of microplastic in the marine nearshore waters of South Georgia
The polar plastics research community have recommended the spatial coverage of microplastic investigations in Antarctica and the Southern Ocean be increased. Presented here is a baseline estimate of microplastics in the nearshore waters of South Georgia, the first in situ study of the north-east coast of the island. Our results show that the microplastic concentration in seawater at twelve stations in proximity to King Edward Point Research Station ranged from 1.75 ± 5.17 MP/L (mean ± SD), approximately one order of magnitude higher than similar studies of sea surface waters south of the Polar Front. Levels of microplastics in freshwater (sampled from Gull Lake) and precipitation (collected adjacent to the research station) were 2.67 ± 3.05 MP/L, and 4.67 ± 3.21 MP/L respectively. There was no significant difference in the microplastic concentration between seawater sites, and no significant bilateral relationship between concentration and distance from the research station outlets. We report an average concentration of 1.66 ± 3.00 MP/L in wastewater collected from the research station but overall, the counts of microplastics were too low to attach any statistical significance to the similarity in the microplastic assemblages of seawater and wastewater, or assemblages retrieved from penguin species in the region in other studies. Using a calculation described in contemporary literature we estimate the number of microfibres potentially being released from ships and stations annually in the region but acknowledge that further samples are needed to support the figures generated. More extensive research into microplastic distribution, characteristics, and transport in the region is recommended to fully compute the level of risk which this pollutant represents to the ecosystem health of this remote region.
Authors: Buckingham, J.W., Manno, C. ORCID record for C. Manno, Waluda, C.M. ORCID record for C.M. Waluda, Waller, C.L.