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Widespread occurrence of microplastics in marine bays with diverse drivers and environmental risk

Liu, Dong; Guo, Zhao Feng; Xu, Yao Yang; Ka Shun Chan, Faith; Xu, Yu Yao; Johnson, Matthew; Zhu, Yong Guan

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Dong Liu

Zhao Feng Guo

Yao Yang Xu

Faith Ka Shun Chan

Yu Yao Xu

Yong Guan Zhu


Microplastic contamination in the sediment of marine bays has attracted widespread attention, whereas the distribution, sedimentation, morphology and risk of microplastics at regional scale remain poorly understood. By introducing a data mining framework into microplastic research, we compiled a microplastic dataset of 649 samples from 24 bays to enhance the understanding of geographical difference and drivers, transfer, composition profile and environmental risk of sedimental microplastics. Microplastic abundance varied from 0.72 to 1963.96 items/kg dry weight, with higher concentrations mainly occurring in East Asian bays. The spatial pattern in abundance was driven by the river plastic emissions, aquaculture production and hydrodynamic condition. A significantly positive correlation between microplastic abundance in water and sediment was found, and microplastic sedimentation was related to polymer density, hydrodynamic conditions and sediment properties. The dominant shape and polymer of sedimental microplastics were fiber and polypropylene, respectively, and the similarity of microplastic composition decreased with increasing geographical distance. The environmental risks of microplastics were partitioned into three classes (Rank II-Rank IV) with a two-dimensional assessment system considering the bioavailability and toxicity of microplastics, and Asian bays were identified as potential high-risk areas. To reduce the environmental risk of sedimental microplastics in bays, priority should be given to the removal of microfibers, and control measures depend on the risk classes and dominant polymers. Microplastic abundance and composition were significantly affected by methodological choices regarding sampling, pretreatment and identification, suggesting a unified methodology is essential to further enhance our knowledge on the distribution and risk of microplastics in marine bays.


Liu, D., Guo, Z. F., Xu, Y. Y., Ka Shun Chan, F., Xu, Y. Y., Johnson, M., & Zhu, Y. G. (2022). Widespread occurrence of microplastics in marine bays with diverse drivers and environmental risk. Environment International, 168, Article 107483.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Aug 17, 2022
Online Publication Date Aug 18, 2022
Publication Date 2022-10
Deposit Date Sep 2, 2022
Publicly Available Date Sep 2, 2022
Journal Environment International
Print ISSN 0160-4120
Electronic ISSN 1873-6750
Publisher Elsevier BV
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 168
Article Number 107483
Keywords General Environmental Science
Public URL
Publisher URL


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