EGU General Assembly 2020
© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Modelling the global biological microplastic particle sink

Karin Kvale, AE Friederike Prowe, Chia-Te Chien, Angela Landolfi, and Andreas Oschlies
Karin Kvale et al.
  • GEOMAR Helmholtz Center for Ocean Research, Biogeochemical Modelling, Kiel, Germany (

Forty percent of the plastic produced annually ends up in the ocean. What happens to the plastic after that is poorly understood, though a growing body of data suggests it is rapidly spreading throughout the ocean. The mechanisms of this spread are not straightforward for small, weakly or neutrally buoyant plastic size fractions (the microplastics), in part because they aggregate in marine snow and are consumed by zooplankton. This biological transport pathway is suspected to be a primary surface microplastic removal mechanism, but exactly how it might work in the real ocean is unknown. We search the parameter space of a new microplastic model embedded in an earth system model to show biological uptake significantly shapes global microplastic inventory and distributions, despite its being an apparently inefficient removal pathway.

How to cite: Kvale, K., Prowe, A. F., Chien, C.-T., Landolfi, A., and Oschlies, A.: Modelling the global biological microplastic particle sink, EGU General Assembly 2020, Online, 4–8 May 2020, EGU2020-1892,, 2020

This abstract will not be presented.