Ecological Aspects of Microplastics | JPI OCEANS

Ecological Aspects of Microplastics

Joint Action Facts
Action period: February 2013
Funding: € 18,200,000
Strategic area:
  • Interdisciplinary Research for Good Environmental Status
Type of action:
  • Joint call
Lead countries:
  • Germany


Microplastics are persistent, ubiquitous and have a high potential to cause physical and toxicological harm. Microplastics have been identified as an artificial substrate which could affect ecological processes and facilitate transportation of invasive species. However, knowledge about the origin, abundance and distribution of microplastics in marine systems is still limited. Furthermore, the toxicological and ecological effects on marine organisms and ultimately on human health are also insufficiently studied. Hence, for the protection of marine habitats and the safety of marine resources and seafood, JPI Oceans Member Countries decided to launch a action in the field of microplastic research.




Joint Call on microplastics 2015 

The pilot action Ecological Aspects of Microplastics was proposed by Germany in the Management Board of February 2013. In an iterative process scientific experts together with the members of the Management Board (MB) have defined the scope of this pilot action as comprising methods, monitoring and effects of microplastics. Following a bibliometric study, foresight exercise and methods workshop, ten member countries of JPI Oceans published a joint call in 2015 with an overall budget of approx.  7.7 million Euro. Four projects were selected for funding from January 2016 for for a period of 36 months.

The first joint call for research proposals comprised three main themes:

  1. Validation and harmonisation of analytical methods
  2. Identification and quantification of microplastics
  3. Eco-toxicological effects of microplastic – impact on marine organisms 

After evaluation, four new JPI Oceans projects were selected for funding to conduct research focusing on these respective research areas.

  • BASEMAN - Defining the baselines and standards for microplastics analyses in European waters
  • EPHEMARE - Ecotoxicological effects of microplastics in marine ecosystems
  • PLASTOX - Direct and indirect ecotoxicological impacts of microplastics on marine organisms
  • WEATHER-MIC - How microplastic weathering changes its transport, fate and toxicity in the marine environment


An overview of the key results of the projects can be found here

Through these research projects the knowledge about the analysis, weathering and, ecotoxicological effects of microplastics in the marine environment has been substantially improved. But not all relevant questions have been addressed in these four projects and the knowledge and understanding about smaller microplastic particles (from 10 µm to very small particles - nanoparticles) is in particular limited.

Joint Call on microplastics 2018

Building on the results from the first transnational call “Ecological aspects of microplastics in the marine environment” and recent scientific findings a second call was launched in November 2018. For this joint call for research proposals funding partners from Belgium, Brazil, Denmark, Estonia, France, Germany, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Malta, Norway, Portugal, Spain and Sweden allocated funding. Researchers from UK, Canada and the Netherlands are participating with their own resources in the selected projects.

The second joint call for research proposals comprised four main themes:

  1. Identification, characterisation and quantification of the major microplastic sources, especially mechanisms and time scales of macroplastic fragmentation
  2. New sampling and analytical methodologies - focusing on the smaller (nano-)particles and in situ measurement methods for all matrices (water, sediment, biota)
  3. Monitoring and mapping of microplastics in the marine environment including its effects on the marine environment
  4. Concepts to reduce inputs of plastics into the marine environment including through new recycling methods, raising public awareness, promoting behavioural change, socio-economic analyses
After evaluation, six new JPI Oceans projects were selected for funding to conduct research on sources of microplastics, methods for identifying smaller micro- and (nano-) plastics and monitoring their circulation in marine systems and their effects thereon.
  • ANDROMEDA - Analysis techniques for quantifying nano-and microplastic particles and their degradation in the marine environment – Coordinator: Dr Richard Sempéré, Université d'Aix-Marseille, France
  • HOTMIC - Horizontal and vertical oceanic distribution, transport, and impact of microplastics – Coordinator: Dr Aaron Beck, GEOMAR Helmholtz-Zentrum für Ozeanforschung Kiel, Germany
  • FACTS - Fluxes and Fate of Microplastics in Northern European Waters – Coordinator: Prof Jes Vollertsen, Aalborg University, Denmark
  • microplastiX - Integrated approach on the fate of MicroPlastics (MPs) towards healthy marine ecosystems - Prof Luca Brandt KTH, Royal Institute of Technology, Sweden
  • i-plastic - Dispersion and impacts of micro- and nano-plastics in the tropical and temperate oceans: from regional land-ocean interface to the open ocean – Coordinator: Prof Patrizia Ziveri, Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, Spain
  • RESPONSE - Toward a risk-based assessment of microplastic pollution in marine ecosystems - Coordinator: Prof Francesco Regoli, Polytechnic University of Marche, Italy


Publications joint actions

Batel, Annika, et al. (2018) Microplastic accumulation patterns and transfer of benzo [a] pyrene to adult zebrafish (Danio rerio) gills and zebrafish embryos, Environmental Pollution, DOI: 10.1016/j.envpol.2018.01.028

Batel, Annika, et al. (2016) Transfer of benzo [a] pyrene from microplastics to Artemia nauplii and further to zebrafish via a trophic food web experiment: CYP1A induction and visual tracking of persistent organic pollutants, Environmental toxicology and chemistry, DOI: 10.1002/etc.3361

Bergmann, M. et al. (2017) High Quantities of Microplastic in Arctic Deep-Sea Sediments from the HAUSGARTEN Observatory. Environmental Science and Technology, DOI: 10.1021/acs.est.7b03331

Bour, Agathe, et al. (2018) Environmentally relevant microplastic exposure affects sediment-dwelling bivalves, Environmental Pollution, DOI: 10.1016/j.envpol.2018.02.006

Gago, J., et al.  (2018) Synthetic microfibers in the marine environment: A review on their occurrence in seawater and sediments, Marine Pollution Bulletin, DOI: 10.1016/j.marpolbul.2017.11.070
Jahnke et al. (2017) Reducing Uncertainty and Confronting Ignorance about the Possible Impacts of Weathering Plastic in the Marine Environment, Environmental Science & Technology Letters, DOI: 10.1021/acs.estlett.7b00008 
Kühn, S., et al. (2016) The use of potassium hydroxide (KOH) solution as a suitable approach to isolate plastics ingested by marine organisms, Marine Pollution Bulletin, DOI: 10.1016/j.marpolbul.2016.11.034

Mintenig, S. M., et al. (2017) Identification of microplastic in effluents of waste water treatment plants using focal plane array-based micro-Fourier-transform infrared imaging, Water Research, DOI: 10.1016/j.watres.2016.11.015

Peeken, Ilka, et al. (2018) Arctic sea ice is an important temporal sink and means of transport for microplastic, Nature Communications, DOI: 10.1038/s41467-018-03825-5

Primpke, S. et al. (2017) An automated approach for microplastics analysis using focal plane array (FPA) FTIR microscopy and image analysis. Analytical Methods, DOI: 10.1039/C6AY02476A

Ogonowski, Martin, et al. (2018) Evidence for selective bacterial community structuring on microplastics, Environmental microbiology, DOI: 10.1111/1462-2920.14120

Ogonowski, Martin, et al. (2017) What we know and what we think we know about microplastic effects –a critical perspective, Current Opinion in Environmental Science & Health, DOI: 10.1016/j.coesh.2017.09.001

O'Donovan, Sarit, et al. (2018) Ecotoxicological effects of chemical contaminants adsorbed to microplastics in the clam Scrobicularia plana, Frontiers in Marine Science, DOI: 10.3389/fmars.2018.00143

Rummel, Christoph D., et al. (2017) Impacts of biofilm formation on the fate and potential effects of microplastic in the aquatic environment, Environmental Science & Technology Letters, DOI: 10.1021/acs.estlett.7b00164

Suaria, G. et al. (2016) The Mediterranean Plastic Soup: synthetic polymers in Mediterranean surface waters. Scientific Reports, DOI: 10.1038/srep37551


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