WP 5:

Ecological impacts

This work package aims to explore the uptake and potential impact of plastic particles on key marine species and communities with the ultimate aim of providing knowledge for assessing the risk of nano- and microplastics in the marine environment.

Leader: RUC



The scope of WP5 is to improve the knowledge concerning the mechanisms and potential effects of uptake of MPs in marine food webs by investigating uptake processes, translocation into tissues and effects on organisms, populations and communities. In addition, an understanding of, to what degree, MP particles are capable of crossing the gut membrane into the tissue is of relevance for trophic transfer in general - and for human exposure through consumption of seafood in particular.

The focus of WP5 will be on environmentally realistic exposure conditions in respect to concentrations, polymer types, particle shapes and weathering state.



To assess the risk of MPs as environmental stressors, knowledge of their presence, prevalence and distribution (exposure potential), and characteristics under real environmental conditions is needed. WPs 3 and 4 provide such information as well as data describing sources and persistence. WP2 provides methods to measure MPs also in complex matrices such as tissues and sediment, which is necessary to quantify uptake, translocation and exposure concentrations. Feeding into this WP, the previous WPs will provide some of the information necessary to identify the hazard using environmentally relevant exposure conditions. Information on more susceptible species can additionally feed into a discussion within WP1 regarding the use of alternative test organisms in regulatory testing.


What are the underlying mechanisms of MP uptake and translocation into marine organisms and food webs?

This research question will generate new knowledge on the interactions of MPs and key elements of marine food webs, answering important questions related to biological fate of MPs in the marine environment. In particular, we will quantify processes of MP uptake and transfer through marine food webs that will enable us to provide a better understanding of the fate of MPs in the marine environment. Qualitative investigations of localization, ingestion and uptake of MP in comparison with natural prey by zooplankton and fish larvae will be undertaken through application of state of the art high speed video microscopy

Identify the properties of MPs that are decisive for their ingestion by marine invertebrates and fish larvae


Understand the mechanisms of uptake and depuration in these organisms as well as the potential for translocation of MPs over gut epithelium into other parts of the tissue and eventually of the organism

Test the hypothesis that size is a major controller of the degree to which MPs translocate into tissue

Are marine MPs likely to cause organism, population and community level effects at environmentally realistic concentrations?

Although protecting ecosystems are the focus of environmental risk assessment and management, few published studies have focused on MP impacts on higher levels of biological organization, such as populations, communities and ecosystems. Addressing higher level effects as part of this research question will thus provide important and essential new knowledge on the potential environmental impacts of MPs.

Identify properties of MPs that may lead to effects at organism to community level

Provide important new knowledge on possible impacts of MPs on higher levels of biological organization

MarinePlastic - The Danish center for research in marine plastic pollution

The project is supported by

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