Case study: investigation of microplastic debris in marine surface waters
(with Professor Richard Thompson) is investigating the photo oxidation and mechanical degradation of floating plastic debris in marine waters that results in their fragmentation into 'microplastic' pieces. In order to assess the level of microplastic contamination worldwide; there is a need for comparable data across marine environments that are based on standard methodologies. Collaborative work between Plymouth University and the Sir Alister Hardy Foundation for Ocean Science
(SAHFOS) has shown a significant increase in the abundance of microplastics captured by the Continuous Plankton Recorder (CPR) in the northeast Atlantic between 1960 and 2000. The aim of this project is to further extend this data set and quantify spatiotemporal variations in the abundance of microplastic debris in ocean surface waters. The preliminary examination of CPR archived samples has confirmed the presence of microplastic debris in European waters (see photo opposite), including the North sea, Irish sea, English Channel and North Atlantic.