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Riverine microplastic contamination in southwest Germany : A large-scale survey

DOI zum Zitieren der Version auf EPub Bayreuth:
URN to cite this document: urn:nbn:de:bvb:703-epub-6967-8

Title data

Schrank, Isabella ; Löder, Martin G. J. ; Imhof, Hannes ; Moses, Sonya ; Heß, Maren ; Schwaiger, Julia ; Laforsch, Christian:
Riverine microplastic contamination in southwest Germany : A large-scale survey.
In: Frontiers in Earth Science. Vol. 10 (26 October 2022) . - 794250.
ISSN 2296-6463
DOI der Verlagsversion:

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Project title:
Project's official title
Project's id
Eintragspfade und Kontamination bayerischer Oberflächengewässer mit Mikroplastik und mögliche Auswirkungen auf die Biota
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Durchführung von orientierenden Untersuchungen ausgewählter Fließgewässer in Baden Württemberg auf Mikroplastik
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Untersuchung der Fließgewässer in NRW über die Kunststoffkontamination
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Untersuchung von Flusswasserproben auf Mikroplastik
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Auftrag zur Untersuchung von Flusswasserproben auf Mikroplastik
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Open Access Publizieren
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Project financing: Bavarian Environment Agency
State Institute for the Environment Baden-Württemberg
State Office for Nature, Environment and Consumer Protection North Rhine-Westphalia
Hessian Agency for Nature Conservation, Environment and Geology
State Office for the Environment Rhineland-Palatinate
University of Bayreuth Open Access Publishing Fund


Microplastic (MP) contamination of freshwater ecosystems is still in the focus of research and public attention, as aquatic environments have a high ecological, economic, and recreational value. We now know that rivers do not only function as pathways of MPs into oceans but may also act as temporary MP sinks. However, due to methodological differences, the comparability of studies on MP contamination of rivers is still limited. To compare MP contamination between different river systems, to analyze if there is a constant increase in MP contamination from the upper to the lower course of the river, and to investigate if there are distinct MP distribution patterns, we set up a large-scale survey. We chose two large river systems, the Rhine and Danube catchments with their tributaries and sampled 23 rivers of different sizes at 53 sampling locations in southwest Germany. Surface water sampling, sample processing, and analysis were performed with the same methodology to obtain comparable results on MP number, polymer type, and particle’s size and shape. Fully quantitative data were generated down to 300 µm by using a manta trawl net with a 300-µm mesh size for sampling. Nevertheless, we also included the non-quantitative sampled fraction of particles down to a size of 20 µm in our FTIR analysis after plastic-friendly sample purification by enzymatic oxidative treatment. Plastic concentrations recorded in surface water at the sampling locations ranged from 0.7 to 354.9 particles/m³. Concerning all samples, the number of particles increased toward lower size classes (61.0 ± 34.2% below 300 µm), and fragments were the prevailing shape (90.7 ± 13.6%). Polyethylene (49.2 ± 25.9%) and polypropylene (33.2 ± 22.6%) were the most frequent polymer types. Our survey did not reveal distinct MP distribution patterns or a constant increase of MP abundance within river courses in the investigated river systems. Next, to provide a large-scale dataset of microplastic contamination in surface waters of southwest Germany, our study shows that a representative sampling of MPs in rivers is challenging. MP particles are not homogeneously distributed in rivers, and this indicates that spatial and temporal changes in MP abundance should always be considered in MP monitoring approaches.

Further data

Item Type: Article in a journal
Keywords: microplastic; river; microplastic contamination; large-scale microplastic survey;
enzymatic-oxidative purification; FTIR spectroscopy
DDC Subjects: 500 Science > 570 Life sciences, biology
500 Science > 590 Animals (Zoology)
Institutions of the University: Faculties > Faculty of Biology, Chemistry and Earth Sciences > Department of Biology > Chair Animal Ecology I > Chair Animal Ecology I - Univ.-Prof. Dr. Christian Laforsch
Research Institutions > Central research institutes > Bayreuth Center of Ecology and Environmental Research- BayCEER
Faculties > Faculty of Biology, Chemistry and Earth Sciences
Faculties > Faculty of Biology, Chemistry and Earth Sciences > Department of Biology
Faculties > Faculty of Biology, Chemistry and Earth Sciences > Department of Biology > Chair Animal Ecology I
Research Institutions
Research Institutions > Central research institutes
Language: English
Originates at UBT: Yes
URN: urn:nbn:de:bvb:703-epub-6967-8
Date Deposited: 21 Apr 2023 08:52
Last Modified: 21 Apr 2023 08:53


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