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The Paleoecology of Microplastic Contamination

Bancone, CEP; Turner, SD; Ivar do Sul, JA; Rose, NL; (2020) The Paleoecology of Microplastic Contamination. Frontiers in Environmental Science , 8 , Article 574008. 10.3389/fenvs.2020.574008. Green open access

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Abstract

While the ubiquity and rising abundance of microplastic contamination is becoming increasingly well-known, there is very little empirical data for the scale of their historical inputs to the environment. For many pollutants, where long-term monitoring is absent, paleoecological approaches (the use of naturally-accumulating archives to assess temporal trends) have been widely applied to determine such historical patterns, but to date this has been undertaken only very rarely for microplastics, despite the enormous potential to identify the scale and extent of inputs as well as rates of change. In this paper, we briefly assess the long-term monitoring and paleoecological microplastic literature before considering the advantages and disadvantages of various natural archives (including lake and marine sediments, ice cores and peat archives) as a means to determine historical microplastic records, as well as the range of challenges facing those attempting to extract microplastics from them. We also outline some of the major considerations in chemical, physical and biological taphonomic processes for microplastics as these are critical to the correct interpretation of microplastic paleoecological records but are currently rarely considered. Finally, we assess the usefulness of microplastic paleoecological records as a stratigraphic tool, both as a means to provide potential chronological information, as well as a possible marker for the proposed Anthropocene Epoch.

Type: Article
Title: The Paleoecology of Microplastic Contamination
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.3389/fenvs.2020.574008
Publisher version: http://dx.doi.org/10.3389/fenvs.2020.574008
Language: English
Additional information: Copyright © 2020 Bancone, Turner, Ivar do Sul and Rose. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of S&HS
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of S&HS > Dept of Geography
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10112352
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