Microplastic ingestion by zooplankton.Environ Sci Technol. 2013 Jun 18; 47(12):6646-55.ES
Small plastic detritus, termed "microplastics", are a widespread and ubiquitous contaminant of marine ecosystems across the globe. Ingestion of microplastics by marine biota, including mussels, worms, fish, and seabirds, has been widely reported, but despite their vital ecological role in marine food-webs, the impact of microplastics on zooplankton remains under-researched. Here, we show that microplastics are ingested by, and may impact upon, zooplankton. We used bioimaging techniques to document ingestion, egestion, and adherence of microplastics in a range of zooplankton common to the northeast Atlantic, and employed feeding rate studies to determine the impact of plastic detritus on algal ingestion rates in copepods. Using fluorescence and coherent anti-Stokes Raman scattering (CARS) microscopy we identified that thirteen zooplankton taxa had the capacity to ingest 1.7-30.6 μm polystyrene beads, with uptake varying by taxa, life-stage and bead-size. Post-ingestion, copepods egested faecal pellets laden with microplastics. We further observed microplastics adhered to the external carapace and appendages of exposed zooplankton. Exposure of the copepod Centropages typicus to natural assemblages of algae with and without microplastics showed that 7.3 μm microplastics (>4000 mL(-1)) significantly decreased algal feeding. Our findings imply that marine microplastic debris can negatively impact upon zooplankton function and health.