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The fate and persistence of microplastics and associated pathogens in lowland rivers

The fate and persistence of microplastics and associated pathogens in lowland rivers

Objective

Microplastics (MPs), defined as between 1μm to 5 mm in diameter, are abundant within freshwater ecosystems and deposit and accumulate within stream transient storage areas, such as streambed sediments. Pathogenic bacteria use microplastics as a substrate, and therefore MPs can be used as a vector of disease transmission in streams. MPs can both impair the ecological quality of aquatic systems and pose a public health risk. Monitoring programs are often combined with mathematical models to assess risk for a wide range of flow conditions. A hydrodynamic model provides a powerful tool to identify high risk zones of MPs and pathogens in streams, such as hot spots of accumulation within sediments, and to predict the response to dynamic flow conditions. The overall goal of this proposal is to pioneer the development and field validation of a microplastic fate and transport model for predicting the persistence of microplastics and pathogens in streams worldwide, particularly lowland streams prevalent in the UK and Europe. The field study site is the Tame river, a headwater stream in Birmingham greatly impacted by urban influence. The project will assess three main objectives: 1) to accurately predict the fate and persistence of MPs in lowland streams by applying a hydrodynamic model that appropriately characterise their transport and varied residence time based on size, 2) to measure the spatial heterogeneity of MPs and pathogenic bacteria accumulation (separated by size fractions) in streambed sediments and important hydraulic drivers, and 3) improve predictions and fate of both MPs and pathogens by incorporating size-dependent immobilization and remobilization rates into the hydrodynamic model. The proposed project will advance a critical step for ongoing MP research by providing an advanced hydrodynamic model as a tool to improve predictions of MP and pathogen persistence in streams, and a synthesis study to advance knowledge on the fate of MPs in urban streams.
Leaflet | Map data © OpenStreetMap contributors, Credit: EC-GISCO, © EuroGeographics for the administrative boundaries

Coordinator

THE UNIVERSITY OF BIRMINGHAM

Address

Edgbaston
B15 2tt Birmingham

United Kingdom

Activity type

Higher or Secondary Education Establishments

EU Contribution

€ 224 933,76

Project information

Grant agreement ID: 833702

Status

Grant agreement signed

  • Start date

    1 September 2020

  • End date

    31 August 2022

Funded under:

H2020-EU.1.3.2.

  • Overall budget:

    € 224 933,76

  • EU contribution

    € 224 933,76

Coordinated by:

THE UNIVERSITY OF BIRMINGHAM

United Kingdom