Research on microplastics in the marine-atmospheric environment has progressed

On May 10, Nature Review – Earth and Environment published an important progress article on the research of micro (nano) plastics in the ocean-atmosphere environment. This forward-looking paper brings together the work and perspectives of 33 international experts in atmospheric, marine and plastic pollution, and highlights the importance of integrating ocean-atmosphere transport into the study of the entire plastic cycle.


Global microplastic cycle process and flux Courtesy of East China Normal University

The discoveries of micro (nano)plastic transport and ocean-atmosphere exchange in the atmosphere suggest that highly complex ocean plastic cycles are accompanied by negative impacts on ecosystems and human health, but available observations are limited. The study quantifies the processes and fluxes of the ocean-atmosphere micro (nano) plastic cycle in order to highlight the many unsolved mysteries in the transport of atmospheric micro (nano) plastics.

The study estimates that between 0.013 million and 25 million tons of microplastics per year have the potential to be transported in the ocean-atmosphere and settle into the ocean. However, the high degree of uncertainty in these ocean-atmosphere fluxes is related to data limitations and comparability between studies. To address the uncertainties and knowledge gaps in the ocean-atmosphere micro (nano) plastic cycle, the researchers propose a future global ocean-atmosphere micro (nano) plastic observation strategy that includes new sampling methods and the establishment of a comparable, unified global data set. By combining long-term observations with extensive surveys, this strategy will help identify trends in ocean-atmosphere microplastic pollution and responses to future policy and regulatory actions.

The result was jointly supported by the United Nations, the United Nations Joint Expert Group on Marine Environmental Science (GESAMP) and the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), and organized in-depth discussions by well-known scholars from 12 countries around the world.


Li Daoji’s team conducted a survey of marine plastics and microplastics in the South China Sea Photo courtesy of East China Normal University

Professor Li Daoji and Dr. Liu Kai, State Key Laboratory of Estuarine coast of East China Normal University, are co-authors. The main results of the research on ocean-atmosphere microplastics in this paper are from the research team of marine plastics and microplastics pollution of East China Normal University led by Professor Li Daoji.

In recent years, Li Daoji’s team has carried out pioneering research work on the sources, sink processes and environmental effects of ocean-atmosphere microplastics, and the relevant achievements in ocean-atmosphere microplastics research have been published in many professional journals and received wide attention. (Source: China Science Daily, Zhang Shuanghu, Huang Xin)

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