Abstract: The lack of standardization on the definition and methods in microplastic (MP) research has limited the overall interpretation and intercomparison of published data. This has presented different solutions to assess the presence of these pollutants in the natural environment, bringing the science forward. Microplastics have been reported worldwide across different biological levels and environmental compartments. In the Mediterranean Sea, numerous research efforts have been dedicated to defining the MP pollution levels. The reported MP concentrations are comparable to those found in the convergence zone of ocean gyres, pointing to this basin as one of the world’s greatest plastic accumulation areas. However, to what extent are the data produced limited by the methods? Here, we present the results of a systematic review of MP research methods and occurrence targeting the seawater and sediment bodies of the Mediterranean Sea. Based on this dataset, we 1) assess the discrepancies and similarities in the methods, 2) analyze how these differences affect the reported concentrations, and 3) identify the limitations of the data produced for the Mediterranean Sea. Moreover, we reaffirm the pressing need of developing a common reporting terminology, and call for international collaboration between Mediterranean countries, especially with North African countries, to provide a complete picture of the MP pollution status in this basin.
Simon-Sánchez L., Grelaud M., Franci M. and Ziveri P. 2021: Are research methods shaping our understanding of microplastic pollution? A literature review on the seawater and sediment bodies of the Mediterranean Sea. Environmental Pollution, 292, Part B, 118275. DOI: 10.1016/j.envpol.2021.118275