EGU General Assembly 2022
© Author(s) 2022. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Biogenic polymers aggregation drives the export and vertical dynamics of small microplastics in the North Atlantic Gyre 

Luisa Galgani1,2, Barbara Schulz-Böttcher3, Isabel Gossman3, Zhanfei Liu4, Xiangtao Jiang4, Lindsay Scheidemann1, Cathleen Schlundt1, and Anja Engel1
Luisa Galgani et al.
  • 1GEOMAR-Helmholtz Center for Ocean Research Kiel, Germany
  • 2Florida Atlantic University, Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute, USA (
  • 3Institute for Chemistry and Biology of the Marine Environment (ICBM), Germany
  • 4The University of Texas, Marine Science Institute, USA

One of the major knowledge gaps in the study of plastic pollution is the understanding of residence times of these anthropogenic particles once they reach our oceans. Observations report a mismatch between estimates of plastic loads from worldwide plastic production and mismanaged plastic waste and actual plastic concentration seen floating at the sea-surface. Surveys of the water column -from the surface to the deep sea- are rare. Most of the recent efforts have thus addressed this question with modeling approaches or laboratory experiments that individuate in biofouling an important factor for the removal efficiency of plastics at sea and a likely explanation for the “missing plastic”. For the first time, we provide in-situ measured fluxes and removal rates of microplastics using deployments of drifting sediment traps in the North Atlantic Gyre from 50 m down to 600 m depth. We identified and quantified plastic contents with two different analytical approaches, FTIR and Py-GC/MS to determine polymer mass and particle distribution over depth.  From derived data, interaction with biogenic polymers and thus particles transfer from the surface to the deep ocean are reconstructed. These findings shed a light on important pathways that regulate microplastics fate in marine ecosystems, from possible harmful repercussions on marine biota to impacts on fundamentals elements cycles.

How to cite: Galgani, L., Schulz-Böttcher, B., Gossman, I., Liu, Z., Jiang, X., Scheidemann, L., Schlundt, C., and Engel, A.: Biogenic polymers aggregation drives the export and vertical dynamics of small microplastics in the North Atlantic Gyre , EGU General Assembly 2022, Vienna, Austria, 23–27 May 2022, EGU22-6220,, 2022.