An evaluation of surface micro- and mesoplastic pollution in pelagic ecosystems of the Western Mediterranean Sea
This study examines the distribution, abundance and characteristics of surface micro- and mesoplastic debris in the Western Mediterranean Sea. 41 samples were collected in 2011 (summer) and 2012 (summer). Results, firstly, revealed that micro- (<5mm) and mesoplastic debriswere widely and uniformly distributed in this area with average concentrations of 130,000 parts/km2 and 5700 parts/km2, respectively. Importantly, a strong correlation between micro- and mesoplastic concentrations was identified. Secondly, a classification based on the shape and appearance of microplastics indicated the predominant presence of fragments (73 %) followed by thin films (14 %). Thirdly, the average mass ratio of microplastic to dry organic matter has been measured at 0.5, revealing a significant presence of microplastics in comparison to plankton. Finally, a correction method was applied in order to correct wind mixing effect on microplastics’ vertical distribution. This data allows for a comprehensive view, for the first time, of the spatial distribution and nature of plastic debris in the Western Mediterranean Sea.