The Asia-Pacific region has been identified as the world’s largest contributor of mismanaged plastic waste (MPW). Rivers play a crucial role in transporting land-derived material (for example, ~91% of the global MPW) and fresh water to the coastal ocean, the latter creating convergent river plume fronts. Convergent frontal systems trapping suspended materials and planktonic organisms have been well documented. Whether and how plume fronts are important to the distribution, transport, and fate of plastic debris (including microplastic) is largely unknown. This project will use a combination of measurements and numerical models to determine how plastics are impacted by plume fronts. The observational campaigns are designed to examine plastic densities from the water and zooplankton samples in and around plume frontal zones to test the hypothesis that plastics accumulate at plume fronts of the Yellow River and Terengganu River, leading to a high ingestion risk in zooplankton. Plastic debris impacted by the dynamics of the Yellow River plume front will be studied by performing high-resolution observations of hydrographic and biogeochemical variables. Finally, numerical simulations will be carried out to predict the transport and residence time of plastics in frontal systems. The results will improve our understanding of the impacts of plume fronts on plastic pollution in estuaries, and help to predict plastic accumulation “hot spots” and develop mitigation strategies.
Project • CRRP2021-08MY-Zhao