Oct 21

Validation of a method to quantify microfibres present in aquatic surface microlayers

Joshua Birkenhead, Freya Radford, Jessica Stead, Prof Andy Cundy and Dr Malcom Hudson.

Published on 21 Oct 2020


Many of the methods for microplastics quantification in the environment are criticised creating problems with data validity. Quantification of microplastics in the surface microlayer of aquatic environments using glass plate dipping holds promise as a simple field method, but its efficiency has yet to be validated. We tested a standard glass plate dipping method to assess recovery of four common polymer microfibres and two common natural fibres, under three different salinities (freshwater, brackish water, saltwater). Overall recovery rates were low (26.8 ± 1.54%) but higher recoveries were observed under saltwater treatments (36.5 ± 3.01%) than brackish water (24.5 ± 1.92%) or freshwater (19.3 ± 1.92%). The fibre types showed different recovery rates, with acrylic yielding significantly higher recovery rates (37.0 ± 2.71%) than other fibres across treatments. No clear relationship between the density of the fibres and the recovery efficiency was seen. We suggest that, where this method is used for monitoring microplastics, the results will typically underestimate the total amount present, but that recovery is sufficiently consistent to allow comparison of differences between sampling locations. When comparing data across river-estuarine or similar transects salinity should be monitored to account for salinity-induced differences in sampling recovery.