Poster Australian Marine Sciences Association 2022

A macro effort for microplastics. Establishing a baseline dataset for microplastics in NSW estuaries. (#462)

Samantha K Lynch 1 , Colin C L Johnson 1 , Edwina L Foulsham 1
  1. NSW Department of Planning and Environment, Lidcombe, NEW SOUTH WALES, Australia

Globally, microplastics are an emerging concern. With this increasing interest in microplastics, there are calls for a greater understanding of their presence and impacts. However, environmental microplastic assessment and analysis is traditionally expensive, and labour intensive, with no standardisation in either sampling or analysis protocols. Reported sampling methods also suffer from either significant infrastructure outlay (for pumped systems) or have been designed for use from large research vessels and consequently require large water bodies. As a result, we have limited knowledge of microplastics abundance, distribution, impact, and sources in Australia. Here, we present a rapid and cost-effective method for comparable assessment of microplastic distribution and abundance in waterbodies of varying morphologies. Over the summer period, repeated replicate surface water samples were collected in 50 estuaries with the use of a neuston net (mesh size 0.333mm) suitable for deployment from a variety of vessels. Over 200 samples from 50 estuaries were collected with sampling of each estuary completed in less than 30 minutes. Density separation of plastics from extraneous material and subsequent selective staining of the dominant plastics facilitated rapid and cost-effective analysis of samples whilst retaining sampled material for further spectrometric analysis if required.