From fields to waters: microplastics are globe-trotters !

Micro and Nanoplastics (MNP) are everywhere. They are volatile and able to travel long distances! At the forefront of environmental research, Institute of Environmental Sciences is studying the complex pathway of MNP from agricultural fields to surface waters. The RPTU Kaiserslautern-Landau team has embarked in a controlled outdoor experimental environment study to elucidate this critical pathway.

What’s going on ?
In innovative experiments, they are examining the erosion and lateral water transport potential of MNPs on different landscape. With slopes ranging from 1° to 9° and different tillage practices, they are meticulously testing the behaviour of MNPs using eight independent containers (each measuring 80 x 80 x 20 cm).

Interaction between soil and MNPs :
Soil samples, sourced from the Riparian Stream mesocosm in Landau, undergo an incubation period of approximately eight weeks prior to each experiment. To simulate real-world scenarios, these soils are spiked with field-relevant MNP levels.

Experiment setup :
Two separate runoff experiments to illustrate various conditions were designed. In runoff experiment 1, MNPs are spread over the soil to replicate worst-case scenarios, whereas in runoff experiment 2, MNPs are incorporated into the soil for greater field relevance.

Irrigation simulation :
To simulate heavy rainfall, the team uses small-scale irrigation systems that provide spatially homogeneous rainfall coverage in the area (80 x 80 cm). This configuration guarantees realistic conditions for the assessment of NPM transport.

What is the study ?
Throughout the experiments, they are closely monitoring the transport of three key MNPs: yellow PS, blue PET and black tyre wear. By collecting runoff from each container, they want to better understand the complex dynamics of MNP movement in agricultural landscapes.

The research holds great promise for understanding and mitigating the impact of plastic pollution on the environment.


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