Many thanks to Portland State University's Edward and Olive Bushby Foundation in Environmental Science & Management for providing funding, in addition to the University Honors College and Oregon Public Broadcasting.
Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry
Microplastics -- Environmental aspects, Microplastics -- Measurement, Microplastics -- Analysis, Aquatic organisms -- Effect of microplastics on
Microplastics are ubiquitous in our environment and are found in rivers, streams, oceans, and even tap water. Riverine microplastics are relatively understudied compared to those in marine ecosystems. In Oregon, we sampled eight sites along four freshwater rivers spanning rural to urban areas to quantify microplastics. Plankton tow samples from sites along the Columbia, Willamette, Deschutes, and Rogue Rivers were analyzed using traditional light microscopy for initial microplastic counts. Application of Nile Red dye to validate microplastics improved microplastic identification, particularly for particles (Wilcox Test; p‐value=0.001). Nile Red‐corrected microfiber abundance was correlated with human population within five kilometers of the sample site (R²=0.554), though no such relationship was observed between microparticles and population (R²=0.183). This study finds plastics present in all samples from all sites, despite the range from undeveloped, remote stretches of river in rural areas to metropolitan sites within Portland, demonstrating the pervasive presence of plastic pollution in freshwater environments.
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Published as: Valine, A. E., Peterson, A. E., Horn, D. A., Scully‐Engelmeyer, K. M., & Granek, E. F. (2020). Microplastic Prevalence in 4 Oregon Rivers Along a Rural to Urban Gradient Applying a Cost‐Effective Validation Technique. Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry, 39(8), 1590-1598.