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
More Information
Secretariat Contact:

Dr. Isabelle Schulz

Tel. +32 (0) 2626 16 70



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 published a joint call in 2015 of 7.7 million Euro. Four projects were selected for funding from January 2016 for a three year period.

  • 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


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 by thirteen JPI Oceans member countries together with Latvia and Brazil in November 2018. This joint transnational call intends to increase the knowledge about the relevant sources of microplastics, analytical methods for identifying smaller micro- and (nano-)plastics, monitoring their distribution and abundance in marine systems and their effects thereon as well as concepts to reduce inputs of plastic into the marine evironment. 
For this call funding partners from Belgium, Brazil, Denmark, Estonia, France, Germany, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Malta, Norway, Portugal, Spain and Sweden have allocated a total amount of up to € 10.5 million funding. In addition, researchers based in other countries are able to participate with their own resources.


The second joint call, launched in November 2018 comprises 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


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, which included:

Bibliometric Study

JPI Oceans conducted a bibliometric study which revealed a map of strong national research clusters connected in international and global networks. The study was performed as a scoping tool and to provide a baseline for further monitoring of the expanding research field 

Foresight exercise in microplastics 

In order to support the development of the pilot action, the CSA Oceans project conducted a thematic foresight exercise in microplastics. The exercise developed a roadmap for microplastics research for Europe, identifying four research areas, which were used to inform the scientific orientation of the Pilot Action. 

Best practice guidelines 

On behalf of JPI Oceans, Ghent University, with the support of the Flemish Government, hosted an international scientific experts workshop on microplastics in January 2015. The workshop reviewed the current state of science and identified best practices for methodologies, in particular with a view to developing a risk assessment framework. 

Joint Call on microplastics 2015 

Ten Member Countries of JPI Oceans launched a joint call on microplastics in January 2015 with an overall budget of approx. €7.5m. Four projects were selected for funding from 31 December 2015 for a period of 36 months.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 the four projects and the knowledge and understanding aboutsmaller 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 by thirteen JPI Oceans member countries together with Latvia and Brazil in November 2018. This joint transnational call intends to increase the knowledge about the relevant sources of microplastics, analytical methods for identifying smaller micro- and nano-plastics, monitoring their distribution and abundance in marine systems and their effects thereon as well as concepts to reduce inputs of plastic into the marine evironment.  

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


Periodic Report microplastics projects

The periodic reports of the four microplasics projects funded within the framework of JPI Oceans have been delivered to the funding partners and JPI Oceans secretariat. The executive summaries of the reports can be downloaded below

Participating countries


Federal Public Planning Service Science Policy (BELSPO)

Contact: David Cox


Research Centre Juelich (JÜLICH)

Contact: Joachim Harms

Research Centre Juelich (JÜLICH)

Contact: Ulrich Wolf


Ministry of Economy and Competitiveness of the Government of Spain. Spanish Ministry of Economy and Competiveness (MINECO)

Contact: Lourdes Armesto


French National Research Agency (ANR)

Contact: Maurice Heral


Marine Institute Ireland (MI)

Contact: John Evans


Ministry of Education, University and Research (MIUR)

Contact: Aldo Covello


Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO)

Contact: Josef F. Stuefer


Research Council of Norway (RCN)

Contact: Kristin E. Thorud


Fundação para a Ciência e a Tecnologia (FCT)

Contact: Rita Silva


Swedish Research Council for Environment, Agricultural Sciences and Spatial Planning (FORMAS)

Contact: Lisa Almesjö

Swedish Agency for Marine and Water Management (HaV)

Contact: Mats Svensson

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