Spatial Distribution of Meso- and Microplastics in Floodplain Soilscapes: Novel Insights from Rural to Urban Floodplains in Central Germany
Plastics and especially microplastics have become an emerging threat to global ecosystems. Despite the manifold benefits and applications of the human-made material plastic, the uncontrolled release of plastics into the environment has led to a “global plastic crisis”. During the last decades it bec...
|PDF Full Text
No Tags, Be the first to tag this record!
|Plastics and especially microplastics have become an emerging threat to global ecosystems. Despite the manifold benefits and applications of the human-made material plastic, the uncontrolled release of plastics into the environment has led to a “global plastic crisis”. During the last decades it becomes apparent that this crisis leads to the presence of plastics within different environments including marine, aquatic and terrestrial systems under worldwide evidence. Furthermore, environmental plastic research was able to reveal that although plastic often ends up in oceans, the majority of plastics in the environment are transported as part of a “global plastic cycle” from the land to sea via river systems. Those river systems are not isolated in the landscape, but rather a part of an “aquatic-terrestrial interface” which also encompasses floodplains and their soilscapes.
The present thesis focuses on the spatial distribution and spatio-temporal accumulation of meso- and microplastics in floodplain soilscapes following the overall objective to unravel the role of floodplain soilscapes as depositional areas of plastics within the global plastic cycle. In this context, a number of individual contributions have been published, reaching from conceptual spatial research approaches, over case studies conducted within two different floodplain soilscapes, to further opinions on the scientific benefit of plastic residues in floodplain soils. The individual contributions are linked by the major hypothesis that floodplain soilscapes act as temporal accumulation sites for plastics, driven by flood-related processes and land use over the last 70 years. To proof this major hypothesis and to overcome the lack of spatial reference in microplastics research, a geospatial sampling approach was conducted. Initial spatial data on meso- and microplastics in floodplain soils were obtained by a holistic analysis approach including the analysis of basic soil feature and metal analysis, the quantification of meso- and microplastics as well as sediment dating.
Within both studied river floodplains geospatial sampling enables a detection of meso- and microplastics over the entire floodplain area and within the entire soil column reaching depths of two meters. Additionally, a frequent accumulation of plastics was found within the upper 50 cm of floodplain soils. In combination with dating of near-channel floodplain sites, it could be demonstrated that those plastic accumulations are related to recent sedimentary deposits since the 1960s. However, evidence of plastic from deeper soil layers suggests that vertical displacements in floodplain soils occur and that plastics become mobilized. Furthermore, the presence of plastics in upstream areas suggests that plastics are released to river systems and deposited via flood dynamics already in rural areas. Additionally it appears that anthropogenic impacts, such as tillage or floodplain restoration influence plastic distributions.
The findings of this thesis clarify that floodplain soilscapes are part of the global plastic cycle as temporally depositional areas of plastics, but raising further questions on the mobility of plastics in soils and about the exact contribution of different environmental drivers towards plastic deposition. Finally, the present thesis indicates that the spatial reference of environmental plastic research should be rethought, in order to understand the spatial dynamics of plastics within the aquatic-terrestrial interface.