Microplastic contamination in seawater across global marine protected areas boundaries

Beatriz Zachello Nunes, Yuyue Huang, Victor Vasques Ribeiro, Siqi Wu, Henrik Holbech, Lucas Buruaem Moreira, Elvis Genbo Xu*, Italo B. Castro


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Despite the relatively rich literature on the omnipresence of microplastics in marine environments, the current status and ecological impacts of microplastics on global Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) are still unknown. Their ubiquitous occurrence, increasing volume, and ecotoxicological effects have made microplastic an emerging marine pollutant. Given the critical conservation roles of MPAs that aim to protect vulnerable marine species, biodiversity, and resources, it is essential to have a comprehensive overview of the occurrence, abundance, distribution, and characteristics of microplastics in MPAs including their buffer zones. Here, extensive data were collected and screened based on 1565 peer-reviewed literature from 2017 to 2020, and a GIS-based approach was applied to improve the outcomes by considering boundary limits. Microplastics in seawater samples were verified within the boundaries of 52 MPAs; after including the buffer zones, 1/3 more (68 MPAs) were identified as contaminated by microplastics. A large range of microplastic levels in MPAs was summarized based on water volume (0–809,000 items/m 3) or surface water area (21.3–1,650,000,000 items/km 2), which was likely due to discrepancy in sampling and analytical methods. Fragment was the most frequently observed shape and fiber was the most abundant shape. PE and PP were the most common and also most abundant polymer types. Overall, 2/3 of available data reported that seawater microplastic levels in MPAs were higher than 12,429 items/km 2, indicating that global MPAs alone cannot protect against microplastic pollution. The current limitations and future directions were also discussed toward the post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework goals.

TidsskriftEnvironmental Pollution
Udgave nummer1
StatusUdgivet - 1. jan. 2023


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