The extensive use of plastics by consumers and industry has resulted in an increased amount of plastic litter entering and building-up in marine ecosystems. Plastic pollution does not only present a threat by itself, but may also introduce additional hazard due to the presence of chemical additives added during its production. Increasing amounts of microplastics and associated chemicals resulting from fragmentation and degradation of marine litter, are one of the less known threats to the marine environment, especially in the long-term. The MicroLEACH project will investigate the long-term effects of microplastics and their additives on a selection of marine organisms found in the Norwegian environment.
Special interest will be directed towards species with ecological and commercial importance, including algae, mussels, worms and fish. Studies will be conducted using microplastics and fragments formed from post-production and post-consumer plastics at present and future concentrations, to mimic what is happening in the environment. We will also seek to understand the extent to which microplastics and their chemical additives accumulate in organisms and are transferred along the Norwegian marine food chain. An effort will also be put into identifying the contribution of additives to the observed effects. Investigations into how organisms interact with and take up microplastics and their additives will be carried out. This will allow us to identify which animals are more vulnerable, not only in terms of ecosystem balance, but also economic value.
The project is be led by the Norwegian Institute for Water Research (NIVA) with the support of partners from key environmental institutes from Norway (SINTEF), the Netherlands (Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam), United Kingdom (University of Plymouth) and Australia (University of Queensland). Knowledge obtained within this project will provide a baseline for future development of regulatory guidelines to deal with the potential threats posed by microplastics and their additives at the national, international and global level.