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Deposition and in-situ translocation of microplastics in floodplain soils
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  • Collin Joel Weber,
  • Christian Opp,
  • Julia A Prume,
  • Martin Koch,
  • Thorbjørn Joest Andersen,
  • Peter Chifflard
Collin Joel Weber
Philipps-University Marburg, Department of Geography

Corresponding Author:collin.weber@geo.uni-marburg.de

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Christian Opp
Phillips-University Marburg, Department of Geography
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Julia A Prume
Philipps-University Marburg, Department of Physics
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Martin Koch
Philipps-University Marburg, Department of Physics
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Thorbjørn Joest Andersen
Copenhagen University
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Peter Chifflard
Philipps-Universität Marburg
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Microplastic (MP) contamination of freshwaters and soils has become one of the major challenges within the Anthropocene. MP is transported in large quantities through river systems from land to sea. However, the question is whether there is transport only or also deposition within the system? Floodplains and their soils as part of the river system are known for their sink function for sediments, nutrients, and pollutants. The present case study analyzes the spatial distribution of large (L-MP, 2,000–1,000 μm) and medium (M-MP, 1,000–500 μm) MP particles in floodplain soils of the Lahn River (Germany). Based on a geospatial sampling concept, the MP contents in floodplain soils are investigated down to a depth of 2 meters through a holistic method approach. The analysis of the plastic particles is carried out by density separation, visual fluorescence identification, and additional ATR-FTIR analysis. In addition, grain size analyses and 210Pb/137Cs dating was performed to reconstruct the MP deposition conditions in floodplains. The results prove a spatial frequent accumulation of MP in upper floodplain soils (0–50 cm) deposited by flood dynamics since the 1960s. MP detection over the entire soil column to a depth of 2 meters and below recent (>1960) sediment accumulation indicates MP relocation and in-situ vertical transfer of mobile MP particles through natural processes (e.g., preferential flow, bioturbation). Furthermore, the role of MP as a potential marker of the Anthropocene is assessed based on the findings. This study advances our understanding of the deposition and relocation of MP at the aquatic-terrestrial interface.
May 2022Published in Science of The Total Environment volume 819 on pages 152039. 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2021.152039