Particulate plastics in terrestrial and aquatic environments

New book

Plastic was perceived as a blessing for humankind for almost a century, offering benefits not found in nature. The durable material now seems to be turning into a curse, as plastic waste pollutes fields, rivers, and oceans worldwide.

Akvaplan-niva scientist Claudia Halsband has worked with microplastics for ten years studying how zooplankton respond to the presence of microplastics, which by definition overlap in size with what zooplankton eat. Zooplankton, in turn, serve as food for fish larvae, seabirds and whales.

Her studies have revealed that many zooplankters eat microplastics, and that the particles can adhere to the feathery body appendages that help zooplankton stay afloat. Whether ingestion of microplastics has negative effects on the physiology of the zooplankton grazers is less clear, however. Although most of the microplastics are egested again, a reduction in feeding on nutritious food in the presence of microplastics may lead to reduced energy allocation to growth or reproduction.

While most sources of plastic litter are on land, research activities in the past decade have had a strong focus on quantifying the extent of plastic pollution in the ocean. But now the terrestrial sciences are catching up. Prof. Nanthi Bolan at the University of Newcastle, Australia, invited Claudia Halsband to join an international team of co-editors to compile a book on particulate plastics in terrestrial and aquatic environments, published at CRC Press. Claudia Halsband says: “It’s great to see the compilation of research efforts in this book where both the terrestrial and aquatic aspects of plastic pollution are addressed.”

More than 80 experts from all continents contributed chapters on topics ranging from the properties that make particulate plastics problematic to their distribution in different parts of the world and their ecotoxicity. Various approaches to managing particulate plastic waste show possible ways out of the plastic crisis.

“This book will be an interesting read for everyone interested in the complexities of plastic pollution, especially students and researchers involved in earth, environmental, marine, or soil science, as well as environmental regulators,” concludes Claudia Halsband.