Microplastics in the Southern Oceans

Microplastics (MP) pose an emerging threat to the global environment. Wherever one searches, MP is found, albeit in differing concentrations and constitutions. We ask whether microplastics is also found in the Antarctic Ocean. Specifically, we ask if microplastics found in the Southern Ocean originates from tourism, ship traffic or stations on land or if it originates from the northern continents.  Can the strong Antarctic Circumpolar Current which isolates the Southern Ocean from the northern oceans be penetrated by microplastics at the water surface? To answer these questions, we will study surface water of the Southern Ocean (Weddell Sea, Western Antarctic Peninsula and Scotia Sea), and snow for the occurrence of microplastics. We aim at analyzing the microplastics and try to find signatures to ascertain the importance of local vs more northern sources. As well, emperor penguins, makrozoobenthos and fish of the Southern Ocean will be studied to see whether they ingested microplastics.

This project is in progress. It is a cooperation project of several research institutes:
Alfred-Wegener Institut (G. Gerdts, S. Primpke, F. Mark), Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research NIOZ (L. Amaral-Zettler), Utrecht University (E. van Sebille)

Prof. Dr. Patricia Burkhardt-Holm
Priscilla Carrillo Barragán
Dr. Gabriel Erni Cassola
MSc Clara Leistenschneider
Sebastian Rieder
Nicole Seiler-Kurth

2022 Expedition programme

Polarstern Capetown

Expedition Programm PS129 and PS130
in Antarctica from March - May 2022
with participation of Dr. Gabriel Erni Cassola
and Kevin Leuenberger

Field notes from Antarctica - Blog Swissinfo