Articles | Volume 10, issue 12
Research article
06 Dec 2013
Research article |  | 06 Dec 2013

Modelled transport of benthic marine microplastic pollution in the Nazaré Canyon

A. Ballent, S. Pando, A. Purser, M. F. Juliano, and L. Thomsen

Abstract. With knowledge of typical hydrodynamic behavior of waste plastic material, models predicting the dispersal of benthic plastics from land sources within the ocean are possible. Here we investigated the hydrodynamic behavior (density, settling velocity and resuspension characteristics) of non-buoyant preproduction plastic pellets in the laboratory. From these results we used the MOHID modelling system to predict what would be the likely transport and deposition pathways of such material in the Nazaré Canyon (Portugal) during the spring/summer months of 2009 and the autumn/winter months of 2011.

Model outputs indicated that non-buoyant plastic pellets would likely be transported up and down canyon as a function of tidal forces, with only a minor net down canyon movement resulting from tidal action. The model indicated that transport down canyon was likely greater during the autumn/winter, primarily as a result of occasional mass transport events related to storm activity and internal wave action. Transport rates within the canyon were not predicted to be regular throughout the canyon system, with stretches of the upper canyon acting more as locations of pellet deposition than conduits of pellet transport. Topography and the depths of internal wave action are hypothesized to contribute to this lack of homogeneity in predicted transport.

Final-revised paper