The discovery of atmospheric micro(nano)plastic transport and ocean–atmosphere exchange points to a highly complex marine plastic cycle, with negative implications for human and ecosystem health. Yet, observations are currently limited. In this Perspective, we quantify the processes and fluxes of the marine-atmospheric micro(nano)plastic cycle, with the aim of highlighting the remaining unknowns in atmospheric micro(nano)plastic transport. Between 0.013 and 25 million metric tons per year of micro(nano)plastics are potentially being transported within the marine atmosphere and deposited in the oceans. However, the high uncertainty in these marine-atmospheric fluxes is related to data limitations and a lack of study intercomparability. To address the uncertainties and remaining knowledge gaps in the marine-atmospheric micro(nano)plastic cycle, we propose a future global marine-atmospheric micro(nano)plastic observation strategy, incorporating novel sampling methods and the creation of a comparable, harmonized and global data set. Together with long-term observations and intensive investigations, this strategy will help to define the trends in marine-atmospheric pollution and any responses to future policy and management actions.
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This paper resulted from deliberations at the virtual workshop The Atmospheric Input of Chemicals to the Ocean, organized by the Joint Group of Experts on Scientific Aspects of Marine Environmental Protection (GESAMP; www.gesamp.org) Working Group 38 (led and supported by the World Meteorological Organization, https://public.wmo.int/en), and GESAMP Working Group 40 (co-led and supported by the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission of UNESCO, https://ioc.unesco.org, and the United Nations Environment Programme, http://www.unep.org). The authors thank the Global Atmosphere Watch and the World Weather Research Programme of the World Meteorological Organization for their workshop support, and the International Atomic Energy Agency, which is grateful for the support provided to its Marine Environment Laboratories by the Government of the Principality of Monaco. D.A. was supported by the Leverhulme Trust through grant ECF-2019-306 and Carnegie Trust (RIG009318). S.A. was supported by IGI funding through the University of Birmingham and an OFI fellowship. L.E.R. was supported by the Royal Society of New Zealand Marsden Fund (contract MFP-UOC1903). A.G.M. was supported by NERC through the Current and Future Effects of Microplastics on Marine Ecosystems (MINIMISE) grant (NE/S004831/1). W.J.S. was supported by the Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries, Korea (Land/sea-based input and fate of microplastics in the marine environment). S.W. is funded by the Medical Research Council (MRC), MRC Centre for Environment and Health (MR/R026521/1), and this work is in part funded by the MRC, National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Health Protection Research Unit in Environmental Exposures and Health, a partnership between UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) and Imperial College London. D.M. acknowledges support from the Dutch Research Council (Nederlandse Organisatie voor Wetenschappelijk Onderzoek (NWO)) project numbers OCENW.XS2.078 and OCENW.XS21.2.042. This work also contributes to the Pollution Observatory of the Helmholtz Association-funded programme FRAM (Frontiers in Arctic Marine Research). This publication is Eprint ID 54444 of the Alfred-Wegener-Institut Helmholtz-Zentrum für Polar- und Meeresforschung.
The authors declare no competing interests.
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Allen, D., Allen, S., Abbasi, S. et al. Microplastics and nanoplastics in the marine-atmosphere environment. Nat Rev Earth Environ 3, 393–405 (2022). https://doi.org/10.1038/s43017-022-00292-x
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