Microplastics again: Report flags threat to marine environment along Kanyakumari coast

Pollutants dog remote beaches, marine ports apart from touristy destinations: Bharatidasan University study

By India Science Wire
Published: Monday 05 October 2020

Microplastics are among major pollutants of the marine environment along the Kanyakumari coast, according to a study by the Department of Remote Sensing, Bharathidasan University.

The study covered eight different sampling stations along a 71 kilometre coastline comprising both urbanised beaches and undisturbed coastal areas along the Indian Ocean. It yielded baseline data that helped understand occurrence and distribution of microplastics in near-shore sediments.

Researchers expect further studies to help understand how such tiny particles — less than 5 millimetres — are transported and evaluate their interaction with the region’s marine ecosystem.

Primary and secondary microplastics are found in coastal environments all over the world. They are much more hazardous than larget plastic particles as they get into all levels of marine food webs.

Researchers found an overall higher abundance of microplastics at urbanised beaches due to significant human influence. While tourist beaches had high levels, remote beaches and fishing ports also had large volumes of such debris, affecting the marine food web.

When sediments were analysed, it was found that the tourist beaches have a microplastics pollution with 150 particles (44 per cent), harbour beaches with 99 particles (28.5 per cent) and coastal stretches along the undisturbed areas with 15 particles (4.3 per cent). These items also likely to contain fibres from clothing and other synthetic textiles almost two fold more as compared with the tiny fragments from larger objects that had broken down over time.

In the present study, scientists tracked microplastics samples from different beach sediments, the average of which is found to be up to 43 particles per 50 g dry sediments. New research would help to identify mechanisms that influence their transport and deposition in the coastal sediments as well as evaluate the possible interaction between microplastic particles and marine ecosystems.  

The authors urged policymakers and consumers to take proactive actions focusing on measures that can stop the plastics from intruding and polluting the ocean.

This research team of Sajimol Sundar comprised Lakshumanan Chokkalingam of the same Tiruchirappalli university, apart from Priyadarsi D Roy Instituto de Geología, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, Ciudad Universitaria, Mexico and Tune Usha of National Centre for Coastal Research, Ministry of Earth Sciences, Chennai, India.

The study has been published in the journal Environmental Science and Pollution Research. It was funded by the Department of Science and Technology under Government of India. (India Science Wire) 

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