International Centre for Island Technology, Institute of Life & Earth Sciences, School of Energy, Geoscience, Infrastructure & Society, Heriot-Watt University, Stromness, Orkney KW16 3AN, UK. Electronic address: [Email]
Seagrasses have global distribution and are highly productive and economically valuable habitats. They are sensitive and vulnerable to a range of human-induced pressures, including ongoing exposure to marine litter, such as microplastic particles (<5 mm). In this study, a Zostera marina bed in Deerness Sound, Orkney was selected to determine whether microplastics accumulate in seagrass beds and adhere to seagrass blades. Sediment, seagrass blade, biota and seawater samples were collected. 280 microplastic particles (0.04 to 3.95 mm (mean = 0.95 mm ± 0.05 SE)) were observed in 94% of samples collected (n = 111). These were visually categorised into type (fibre, flake, fragment) and colour, and 50 were successfully identified as plastic using ATR-FTIR. Fibres contributed >50% of the total microplastics observed across all samples. This is the first known study on Z. marina to describe microplastic loading within a seagrass bed and to identify microplastic adherence to seagrass blades.