In activity 1 we will map the potential distribution of microplastics in the Interreg Region and France Manche Channel Region based on a review of existing information, and use of existing models to simulate preferred transport pathways and potential accumulation zones. The model will be refined as an iterative process along the project, and new features will be integrated during further activities.
Four distinct niches (estuaries, beach, inshore and offshore) have been selected to understand the behaviour of microplastics in different biological and physical settings. Sampling will be happen at representative sites at each of the involved member states. Microplastics will be characterised for physical, biological and chemical properties.
5 actions will be performed to fulfill these objectives:
a1) Initial modeling to map transport pathways and the fate (ie potential accumulation areas) via an existing model using representative features of microplastics.
a2) Standard protocols for sampling will be used/developed. This process will be aligned with international initiatives (EU MSFD expert group, UNEP, IOC, NOAA, OSPAR).
a3) Characterization of different plastic-polymers.
a4) Determination of the Chemical load which microplastics are known to adsorb/absorb (Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs)) and which might potentially accumulate in the food chain together with the microplastics.
a5) Assessment of the microbial load to catalogue possible microbiota with capacities to degrade microplastics and determination of bacteria, such as Vibrio sp., with impact on swimming water quality. Other bacteria with potential risk might preferentially adhere to these microplastics. It is important to define the possible concern for human health caused by those bacteria.
Activity 2 deals with the impact evaluation of the risk assessment of microplastics. At first, clean preproduction polymers will be used to gather basic information of the impact. Further risk assessment will be performed comprising the effects of the chemical load.
Due to the complexity of the ecosystem, a selection of representative key species for the different niches and/or trophic levels has been identified. Effects will be assessed by exposure experiments. The different stress indicators will be measured straightforwardly via a cellular, biochemical, genomic or proteomic approach. The importance of type and form of microplastics upon the physiology of the key species will be underlined.
Assessments will integrate physiological (feeding activity, food absorption, growth and survival, reproduction, general health) as well as effect parameters (histopathology, biomarkers) to indicate damage and disruption to normal functioning and long-term impact.
Selection of key species - presumed to be affected are filter feeders, larval and benthic fish, sediment dwelling species and algae, known as the basic trophic level.
The 6 actions will be adjusted to the different key species and their specific ecological niche:
a1) Larval and benthic fish
Assessment of diverse biological endpoints that indicate impairment of biological processes essential to long-term survival.
a2) Mussel and Oyster
Exposures of microplastics will be assessed in vitro on hemocytes and in vivo for long term to analyse effects on reproduction, growth and metabolism. Measurements will be done on ecophysiological behavior, energy status, defence mechanisms, tissue damages and reproductive characteristics.
a3) Sediment dwelling species (ie brown shrimp):
Assessment of the ability to discriminate between microplastic particles and sediment particles and the caused effects of the particles on these species. Finally the transfer of microplastics into higher trophic levels.
Exposure experiments with benthos species will be conducted to observe uptake, translocation, effects of microplastics and effects of chemical load.
Impact at the lowest level in a trophic system might influence all higher levels in the ecosystem. It is therefore pertinent to evaluate impact of microplastics on growth and cellular physiology on key species diatoms and other North Sea relevant algae.
a5)Sediment dwelling species (ie marine snail):
Bioaccumulation, impact on survival and growth via microplastic contaminated substratum.
a6) Sampled key species in the area will be examined for the presence of microplastics and will be used as final confirmation on the observed experimental effects.
The subject of Activity 3 is to determine the socioeconomic impact of microplastics in the 2 Seas and France Manche Channel Region. Different relevant cases will be evaluated, economical and more societal, inclusive mitigating action to counter the problem.
a1) impact on aquaculture, mariculture and fishery
Oyster and mussel aquaculture is an important economic activity in the concerning region. The potential impacts of microplastics on growth rates, reproduction and possible economic consequences will be assessed.
a2) Assessing bacterial water quality
Bacteria tend to reside on some microplastics and this behaviour might lead to a longer survival time of bacteria in marine ecosystems. The possibility of occurence of harmful bacteria must be investigated to ensure human safety. This Activity will focus on marine water quality for mariculture (fish and filter-feeders) and for recreation.
a3) Degradation of microplastics by bacteria
Plastic litter in the marine environment can breakdown via mechanical or physical processes). Additionally, plastics and microplastics might be degraded via biological (e.g. by bacteria or fungi) pathways. This might provide a solution to mitigate the problem in the 2Sea Interreg and France Manche Channel Region. The encountered bacteria will be isolated and the potential for degradation (partial or complete) will be evaluated.
a4) Support model in policy for science based decision
Marine litter and microplastics are indicators/descriptors for GES (Good Environmental Status) as proposed by the MSFD. The models developed within this proposal, and specifically finetuned for the 2Seas/France Manche Channel Region will be of added value for further impact assessment in this region. Our model will therefore be very useful for further policy decisions and as a consequence the model will be adapted so that it can be used to take solid science based decisions. Different policymakers will be involved as stakeholders to interact about this process.
ILVO is leading partner of the project and coordinates the cooperation between partners and the progress of the activities and reports. They supervise the overall time and budget schedules of the project and communicate with the Interreg office, in casu the financial, progress and final reports, and the stakeholders and the public, on the information and results of MICRO.
ILVO chairs the regular meetings of the steering committee in which all partners are represented. The project progress will be discussed, and corrective actions will be proposed and voted by all partners. There is a Project, Communication and Financial Manager assigned by the partnership.
All partners contribute to the progress of several activities. Every activity has its own responsible partner (activity 1: ILVO, activity 2: Deltares and activity 3: IFREMER & CNRS). Thematic workshops and/or a steering committee meetings are organized by several partners.
The leading partner, ILVO, is responsible for the communication within the MICRO-project. All partners are involved in the design, development and further communication and dissemination of the results of the project.
The core of the communication is: “MicroPlastics- Is it a threat for the 2 Seas Area?”.
Information given concerns:
The potential distribution of microplastics in the Interreg Region and France Manche Channel Region and the simulation of preferred transport pathways and potential accumulation zones.
The evaluation of the impact of microplastics and the effects of the chemical load.
The determination of the socioeconomic impact of microplastics in the 2 Seas and France Manche Channel Region. The case studies are: aquaculture, mariculture and fishery, bacterial water quality, degradation of microplastics by bacteria and development of a support model in policy for a science based decision.
Microplastics - A threat for the 2 Seas Area?
In general, all stakeholders will benefit from the project. All partners will benefit from sharing specific competences and the achievements from common crossborder activities. The scientific and academic world will be informed, through the dissemination in conferences and scientific publications.
Local, regional and international agencies involved in water quality frameworks, in the Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD) and different stakeholders, especially regarding aquaculture/mariculture, fisheries, plastic industry, water quality...will benefit from the MICRO project and will be informed with up-to-date information on different strategies concerning the potential problem with microplastics and possible mitigation measures.
Through subsequent communication moments the broader public will be reached. There is also continuous attention for educational and informational purposes to schools, environmental organizations, data centers and libraries.
The communication is based on 4 pillars (next to scientific publications and presentations):
Meetings and Workshops
Each of the pillars has its specific value for the different target groups.
The Meetings and Workshops are important tools for the exchange of information and expertise within the MICRO project by the participation of all partners to regular 2 days meetings every 6 months, consisting of a Steering Committee and Workshop. Space will be foreseen for extra multipartnermeetings, and for exchanges of scientists or technicians in partners' institute to learn new techniques and build up new expertise.
On the Steering Committees, different (local) stakeholders will be invited, on the workshops experts will be invited. In parallel, scientific results and procedures will be presented at international conferences and published in scientific journals.
An up-to-date website is designed to communicate the results of the MICRO project to the stakeholders. The website will be the central information source.
The MICRO Newsletter is published two times per year. The newsletter will mainly be distributed electronically, but a limited number of tri-lingual hardcopies will be distributed by regular mail to public places (e.g. libraries) to reach a larger audience. Interested parties are able to subscribe to the newsletter on this website.
The MicroPlastics group on facebook is the ideal discussion forum for all problems concerning microplastics, accessible to a broad audience.
All partners are involved in the design, development and further communication and dissemination of the results of the project.