We aim to advance our knowledge and understanding of the sources of microplastics (MP) in the remote Antarctic marine ecosystem. By applying material flow analysis and integrating the results into an ocean circulation model, we will evaluate the evidence that MP can cross the Antarctic Circumpolar Current (ACC) into the Southern Ocean around Antarctica.
A successful outcome will include achieving the following goals:
- Providing baseline information on concentrations, composition and distribution of MP in surface waters from the Southern Ocean,
- Evaluate the sources of MP in the Southern Ocean, by: (1) comparing MPs in the more anthropogenically impacted Scotia Sea (SS) and Western Antarctic Peninsula (WAP) versus relatively pristine Weddell Sea (WS) and (2) modeling MP transport within and to/from Antarctica.
- These comparisons will be based on: (a) characterization of MP properties, such as particle morphology, polymer composition, extent of degradation, and (b) analysis of persistent organic pollutants (POPs) loads, and (c) examination of the microbial communities of the MP (Plastisphere).
- Modeling the potential contribution of local sources, such as Waste Water Treatment
Plant (WWTP) effluents from vessels and research bases, for MP contamination of the Southern Ocean around Antarctica.