Do microplastics affect marine ecosystem productivity?

Tineke A. Troost*, Térence Desclaux, Heather A. Leslie, Myra D. van Der Meulen, A. Dick Vethaak

*Corresponding author for this work

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Marine and coastal ecosystems are among the largest contributors to the Earth's productivity. Experimental studies have shown negative impacts of microplastics on individual algae or zooplankton organisms. Consequently, primary and secondary productivity may be negatively affected as well. In this study we attempted to estimate the impacts on productivity at ecosystem level based on reported laboratory findings with a modelling approach, using our biogeochemical model for the North Sea (Delft3D-GEM). Although the model predicted that microplastics do not affect the total primary or secondary production of the North Sea as a whole, the spatial patterns of secondary production were altered, showing local changes of ±10%. However, relevant field data on microplastics are scarce, and strong assumptions were required to include the plastic concentrations and their impacts under field conditions into the model. These assumptions reveal the main knowledge gaps that have to be resolved to improve the first estimate above.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)17-29
Number of pages13
JournalMarine Pollution Bulletin
Early online date4 Jul 2018
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2018


This work was supported by the European Union Seventh Framework Programme (FP7/2007–2013) under grant agreement No. 308370 . The contents of this publication are the sole responsibility of the CleanSea Project and can in no way be regarded as reflecting the views of the European Union. Its objectives were to break interdisciplinary barriers and to monitor, understand and predict the pollutions caused by the marine litter and its effects on the environment and provide data, instruments, tools and policy options that would help the EU achieve Good Environment Status for marine litter. Appendix A

FundersFunder number
Seventh Framework Programme308370
Seventh Framework Programme


    • Delft3D-GEM
    • Ecosystem productivity
    • Microplastics
    • Modelling approach
    • North Sea
    • Zooplankton


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