Research developed by i-plastic

WP1: in-situ observations

A seasonal monitoring of the fluxes of microplastics in three estuaries in contrasted geographical areas (tropical and temperate) and tide regimes (mesotidal and microtidal) will be conducted in Brazil, Portugal and Spain. The main objectives are 1) to assess the amount and the characteristics of icroplasticss in the different compartments (surface waters, water column, sediment, shoreline and biota) within and outside the estuaries; 2) to estimate the seasonal fluxes of micoplastics from the estuaries to the ocean; 3) to elucidate the role of estuaries as potential accumulation areas for microplastics; 4) to assess the amount of microplasticss ingested by key marine species; and 5) to map the regional distribution and fluxes of microplastics.

Cocó river estuary, Brazil

Mondego river estuary, Portugal

Ebro river estuary, Spain

WP lead: Paula Sobral, NOVA SST – Michaël Grelaud, ICTA-UAB

WP2: Marine biota

As physiological processes in benthic organisms are strongly affected by food availability, ingestion of microplastics and nanoplastics could affect metabolism, growth and reproduction. Accumulated microplastics and nanoplastics and their residence time may have impacts on human health. Studies about concentration, degradation and release of microplastics and nanoplastics ingested by benthic organisms are still limited. The commercial species chosen will be Mytilus galloprovincialis (active suspension feeder) and Holoturia tubulosa (deposit feeder), whilst we will experiment with two other species that may be considered bioremediators, the ascidian Phallusia mamillata and the polychaete Sabella Spallanzani. The specific objectives will be to test the impact of microplastics and nanoplastics ingestion, degradation and release on the activity, ecophysiology and growth rates; to test the effects of microplastics and nanoplastics on the reproductive ecology and the mother care of the organisms; and to elucidate changes in population dynamics with the model organism crossing rising temperature (IPCC forecast) microplastics and nanoplastics ingestion.

Mytilus galoprovincialis, by R. Rodolfo-Metalpa
Holothuria tubulosa, by S. Rossi
Phallusia marmillita, by D. Arduini
Sabella spallanzani, by D. Arduini

WP lead: Sergio Rossi, DiSTeBA – Università del Salento

WP3: Macroplastic fragmentation

The secondary microplastics and nanoplastics present in the marine environment come from the fragmentation of larger particles. It is then crucial to understand the mechanisms governing this process. To achieve this objective, manufactured plastic pellets will be artificially weathered for different time intervals and under experimental conditions. The surface chemistry of the weathered plastics particles will be investigated by XPS (X-ray Photoelectron Spectroscopy) with the aim to identify and quantify chemical groups which can evidence the occurrence of hydrolysis and oxidation reactions, which are at the basis of degradation processes determining macroplastic fragmentation. Biofilm formation on macroplastics will be investigated by XPS as well.

WP lead: Cosimino Malitesta – DiSTeBA – Università del Salento

WP4: Nanoplastics characterization

The main objective of this WP is to develop alternative methods able to characterize and identify nanoplastics. The most promising analytical techniques for this purpose are field flow fractionation (FFF) and pyrolysis coupled with gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (PyGCMS). The FFF will be used to study different environmental matrices and to test the presence of nanoplastics in appropriately pre-concentrated samples. The incidence of NPs on the total will then be investigated by PyGCMS: both the fractions obtained from the FFF experiments and the entire sample will be studied in pyrolysis using an internal standard for qualitative as well as quantitative information. Also in this case the method will be validated beforehand using marine samples fortified with commercial Nanoplastics.

WP lead: Giuseppe de Benedetto – DiSTeBA – Università del Salento

WP5: Numerical modelling

Microplastics transport is very complex and controlled by abiotic and biotic drivers such as winds, buoyancy (intrinsic plastics properties), biofouling (e.g., invertebrates), polymer type, shape and size, local and large-scale oceanic currents, and wave action. Numerical modeling is a tool to understand micro-plastic transporte and its final destination in our oceans and coast. The WP5 intends to create dispersion models for micro-plastic released from the Cocó (Brazil), Ebro (Spain), and Mondego (Portugal) estuaries. The data from the Iplastic observation initiatives and hydrodynamic data from regional and global ocean models will be used to understand the fate of microplastics into the Mediterranean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean.

WP lead: Carlos Teixeira – LABOMAR

WP6: Data management

The objective is to provide a coordinated and comprehensive overall data management for the field and experimental observations as well as for model simulation outputs. The data management will implement the concept of FAIR data (Findable, Accessible, Interoperable and Re-usable). The data should follow a common standardized methodological and reporting procedure to facilitate intercomparison.

WP lead: Michaël Grelaud – ICTA-UAB

WP7: Management

The project coordination will establish the internal detailed management and networking structure to reach the i-plastic project scientific objectives. To design, build and maintain a web-based portal for communication. To run the general financial aspects with full accountability. To link the i-plastic project to other international and national research programmes on marine microplastics and and nanoplastics.

WP lead: Patrizia Ziveri – Michaël Grelaud, ICTA-UAB

i-plastic project is funded by JPI-Oceans through support by the national funding agencies:

Brazil: Fundação Cearense de Apoio ao Desenvolvimento Científico e Tecnológico (FUNCAP); Italy: Ministero dell’Università e della Ricerca (MUR); Portugal: Fundação para a Ciência e a Tecnologia; Spain: Agencia Estatal de Investigacíon (AEI)

Project coordinated by Patrizia Ziveri and Michaël Grelaud