Since 2014, fifteen European countries and Brazil have committed 18.2 million Euro for 10 pan-European research projects on the ecological aspects of microplastics in the marine environment, under the framework of JPI Oceans.
In an initial phase, four projects were funded through a first transnational joint call “Ecological aspects of microplastics in the marine environment”. Research focused on ecotoxicological effects of microplastics, the weathering of plastics, and baselines and standards for microplastics analyses in European waters. Key results of those projects are summarised here.
A second joint call was launched by 13 JPI Oceans member countries, Latvia and Brazil in November 2018. The second joint call for research proposals comprised four main themes:
- Identification, characterisation and quantification of the major microplastic sources, especially mechanisms and time scales of macroplastic fragmentation
- New sampling and analytical methodologies - focusing on the smaller (nano-)particles and in situ measurement methods for all matrices (water, sediment, biota)
- Monitoring and mapping of microplastics in the marine environment including its effects on the marine environment
- 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
Building on the results from the first phase this Joint Action 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 environment.
The first call of the JPI Oceans’ joint action 'Ecological aspects of microplastics in the marine environment' built knowledge and momentum on an emerging topic before the issue received a lot of public and political attention and resulted in the funding of four microplastics research projects. After three years of dedicated microplastics research, the research projects substantially improved the knowledge about the analysis, weathering and, ecotoxicological effects of microplastics in the marine environment. In addition, the coordinators of the projects provided valuable input to the European Commission’s Technical Group on Marine Litter. The latter supports and guides the implementation process of the Marine Strategy Framework Directive in close collaboration with EU member states.
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 of the toxicological and ecological effects on marine organisms and ultimately on human health is still limited. Hence, for the protection of marine habitats and the safety of marine resources and seafood, JPI Oceans Member Countries decided to launch an action in the field of microplastic research.