Plastics, prawns, and patterns: Microplastic loadings in Nephrops norvegicus and surrounding habitat in the North East Atlantic
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The presence of microplastics (MPs), a contaminant of emerging concern, has attracted increasing attention in commercially important seafood species such as Nephrops norvegicus. This species lend themselves well as bioindicators of environmental contamination owing to their availability, spatial and depth distribution, interactions with seafloor sediment and position in the ecosystem and food chain. This study assesses the abundance of MPs in N. norvegicus and in benthic sediments across six functional units in the North East Atlantic. Assessment of the relationship between MP abundance in N. norvegicus, their biological parameters and their surrounding environment was examined. Despite the lack of statistical significance, MP abundances, size, shape, and polymer type recorded in N. norvegicus mirrored those found in the surrounding environment samples. The three main polymers identified in both organisms and sediment were polystyrene, polyamide (nylons), and polypropylene. The level of MP contamination in N. norvegicus could be related to local sources, with relatively low abundances recorded in this study for the North East Atlantic in comparison to other regional studies. Furthermore, larger organisms contained a lower abundance of MPs, demonstrating no accumulation of MPs in N. norvegicus. Based on the results of this study, data on MP ingestion could be used to study trends in the amount and composition of litter ingested by marine animals towards fulfilling requirements of descriptor 10 of the Marine Strategy Framework Directive.
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