Scientists Detect Microplastic Pollution in the Curonian Spit beach

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A team of scientists from the Russian Academy of Sciences Shirshov Institute of Oceanology Atlantic Department, the Immanuel Kant Baltic Federal University, and the Institute of Baltic Sea Research (Warnemunde, Germany) has detected microplastic contamination in the Curonian Spit Beach.

The team has published an article recently in Marine Pollution Bulletin magazine on this study. The article is aimed at studying Curonian spit beaches pollution with macro and microplastic. The pollution from both Russian and Lithuanian parts was studied.

Alexander Kileso, junior researcher at Shirshov Institute of Oceanology says, “We found out that there are some large quantities of macro wastes in the water, but it is located in several isolated spots while being spread around the beach area.  The microplastic is being dragged in the area by sea storms. And the process of storms dragging wastes to and out the beach repeats itself constantly. But only in case if there are no people to step in and clean the wastes”.

Alexander Kileseo, Junior Researcher,

But the fact that people live nearby the beach also proofs to have a significant impact on the environment. For example, this is the main reason of pollution around Klaipeda (Lithuania). Klaipeda is a large port city, so active industrial activity there causes massive pollution.

The situation with microplastic is a bit different. According to the analysis of data gathered on the territory under study – an area between Zelenogradsk and Klaipeda, there is an amount of microplastic evenly distributed all over the area, so it is background pollution we observe here.

Alexander adds, “We studied sand in several parts of the Curonian Spit and in the central and back parts of the beach and we have seen the same result everywhere – 50-120 particles of microplastic (sizing up to 2 millimeters) per one kilogram of sand”.

The research was financed by both the Russian Foundation for Science and by the Russian Foundation for Basic Research as a part of an international ecology-saving project.  According to the scientist, this research is a fine example of cooperation not only between staff members of the IKBFU and the Russian Academy of Sciences but also between scientists on the international level. The research presented a good opportunity to test new technologies of sample gathering and microplastic analysis, which will help scientists to develop new measures of cleaning beaches.