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

Using fluorometric techniques to quantify microplastic transport in an experimental flume

Jan-Pascal Boos1,3, Benjamin Gilfedder2,3, and Sven Frei1,3
Jan-Pascal Boos et al.
  • 1Department of Hydrology, University of Bayreuth, Bayreuth, Germany
  • 2Limnological Research Station, University of Bayreuth, Bayreuth, Germany
  • 3Bayreuth Center of Ecology and Environmental Research, University of Bayreuth, Bayreuth, Germany

Rivers and streams are a primary transport vector for microplastics (MPs), connecting terrestrial sources to marine environments. While previous studies indicated that pore-scale MPs can accumulate in streambed sediments, the specific MPs transport and retention mechanisms in fluvial systems remain poorly understood. We present a novel method for a quantitative analysis of the spatiotemporal transport and retention of pore-scale MPs in an experimental flume. A continuous mass balance for MPs in surface water was achieved using two online fluorometers, while a laser-induced Fluorescence-Imaging-System was developed to track and quantify the spatial migration of MPs through the streambed sediments. The detection limit was <1 μg/L for 1 μm polystyrene microbeads with the fluorometers and 3 μg/L for the Fluorescence-Imaging-System. The system was able to quantitatively track the advective transfer of MPs into the streambed sediments: a process that has yet not been observed experimentally. Results showed that MPs infiltrated into the streambed sediments up to a depth twice the bedform amplitude. This work provides a novel experimental method to quantitatively monitor MP transport through porous media and advective exchange of MP across the streambed interface.

How to cite: Boos, J.-P., Gilfedder, B., and Frei, S.: Using fluorometric techniques to quantify microplastic transport in an experimental flume, EGU General Assembly 2022, Vienna, Austria, 23–27 May 2022, EGU22-8796,, 2022.