The Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ) at the Alfred-Wegener-Institut (AWI, Bremerhaven / Germany; www.awi.de
) has started a five-week expedition across the Pacific, launching the Micro-FATE project with the goal of researching the occurrence and fate of microplastics in the marine environment. The international team hopes to attain the specifics of where microplastics accumulate in the ocean, how the material is degraded and how it affects the environment.
The trip aboard research vessel Sonne began on 30 May 2019 and will take the 18-headed team consisting mainly of biologists, ecotoxicologists and environmental chemists from Vancouver, British Columbia / Canada to Singapore. Along the way, they will take samples at several stations, including in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, which is one of the largest floating waste accumulations in the Pacific see Plasteurope.com of 07.06.2019
The projects main objective is to collect samples from the surface water, the water column and the seabed in order to learn more about the vertical distribution of the plastic particles and to identify potential gradients regarding concentration, composition, age and coverage with biofilm. "So far, we have only little knowledge on how marine plastic weathers," says environmental chemist Annika Jahnke. There are currently no detailed data on where in the ocean which volume of plastics accumulates. Current estimates have been gained mainly from laboratory experiments.
Jahnke will head the UFZ project set to run until 2021. Micro-FATE is being funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF). Members of the research team also include scientists from the Fraunhofer Institute for Ceramic Technologies and Systems (IKTS) and the Leibniz Institute for Baltic Sea Research Warnemüde (IOW) in Germany as well as Stockholm University (SU) in Sweden.
For ongoing information on the progression of the project, visit the Helmholtz expedition blog