A Polar outlook: potential interactions of micro- and nano-plastic with other anthropogenic stressors

Highlights

  • MP/NP at the poles should be addressed with chemical and climate stressors.
  • MP/NP and anthropogenic stress interactions may vary seasonally and locally.
  • MP/NP research should focus on polar species enduring high anthropogenic stress.

Abstract

Polar marine ecosystems may have higher sensitivity than other ecosystems to plastic pollution due to recurrent physical and biological features; presence of ice and high UV radiation, slow growth rates and weak genetic differentiation of resident biota, accumulation of persistent organic pollutants and heavy metals, and fast rates of warming and global ocean acidification. Here, we discuss potential sources of and exposure to micro- and nano-plastic in polar marine ecosystems and potential mixture effects of micro- and nano-plastic coupled with chemical and climate related stressors. We address the anthropogenic contaminants likely to be ‘high risk’ for interactions in Arctic and Antarctic waters for reasons such as accumulation under sea-ice, a known sink for plastic particulates. Consequently, we address the potential for localised plastic-chemical interactions and possible seasonal fluctuations in interactions associated with freeze-thaw events. The risks for keystone polar species are also considered, incorporating the behavioural and physiological traits of biota and addressing potential ‘hotspot’ areas. Finally, we discuss a possible direction for future research.

Rowlands E., Galloway T. & Manno C., 2021. A Polar outlook: potential interactions of micro- and nano-plastic with other anthropogenic stressors. Science of The Total Environment 754: 142379. doi: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2020.142379. Article.

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