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Environmental Pollution

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Micro-plastics, Environmental conditions, Coastal ecology -- Literature


Microplastics are a pollutant of growing concern, capable of harming aquatic organisms and entering the food web. While freshwater microplastic research has expanded in recent years, much remains unknown regarding the sources and delivery pathways of microplastics in these environments. This review aims to address the scientific literature regarding the spatial and temporal factors affecting global freshwater microplastic distributions and abundances. A total of 75 papers, published through June 2021 and containing an earliest publication date of October 2014, was identified by a Web of Science database search. Microplastic spatial distributions are heavily influenced by anthropogenic factors, with higher concentrations reported in regions characterized by urban land cover, high population density, and wastewater treatment plant effluent. Spatial distributions may also be affected by physical watershed characteristics such as slope and elevation (positive and negative correlations with microplastic concentrations, respectively), although few studies address these factors. Temporal variables of influence include precipitation and stormwater runoff (positive correlations) and water flow/discharge (negative correlations). Despite these overarching trends, variations in study results may be due to differing scales or contributing area delineations. Thus, more rigorous and standardized spatial analytical methods are needed. Future research could simultaneously evaluate both spatial and temporal factors and incorporate finer temporal resolutions into sampling campaigns.


© 2021 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Ltd.

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