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Modelling Microplastics in the River Thames: Sources, Sinks and Policy Implications

School of Geography and the Environment, University of Oxford, Oxford OX1 3QY, UK
Newton Campus, School of Science, Bath Spa University, Bath BA2 9BN, UK
Norwegian Institute for Water Research, Gaustadalléen 21, 0349 Oslo, Norway
Department of Zoology, University of Oxford, Oxford OX1 3SZ, UK
Oxford Molecular Biosensors, Centre for Innovation and Enterprise, Begbroke Science Park, Oxford OX5 1PF, UK
UK Centre for Ecology & Hydrology (UKCEH), Maclean Building, Wallingford, Oxfordshire OX10 8BB, UK
National Oceanography Centre, European Way, Southampton SO14 3ZH, UK
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Academic Editor: Paolo Tremolada
Water 2021, 13(6), 861;
Received: 18 February 2021 / Revised: 13 March 2021 / Accepted: 16 March 2021 / Published: 22 March 2021
With widespread, long-term historical use of plastics and the presence of microplastics in a range of new and existing products, there is rising concern about their potential impacts on freshwater ecosystems. Understanding how microplastics are transported and distributed along river systems is key to assessing impacts. Modelling the main flow dynamics, mixing, sedimentation and resuspension processes is essential for an understanding of the transport processes. We use the new, processed based, dynamic, integrated catchments (INCA) microplastics model and apply this to the whole of the freshwater catchment of the River Thames, UK, to evaluate inputs, loads and concentrations along the river system. Recent data from UK water industry studies on microplastics in effluent discharges and sewage sludge disposal has been utilised to drive the INCA microplastics model. Predicted concentrations and microplastic loads moving along the river system are shown to be significant, with a build-up of concentrations along the river, with increasing deposition on the riverbed. The potential impacts on aquatic ecosystems are evaluated and a review of policy implications is explored. View Full-Text
Keywords: microplastics; River Thames; aquatic ecology; water quality; pollution microplastics; River Thames; aquatic ecology; water quality; pollution
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MDPI and ACS Style

Whitehead, P.G.; Bussi, G.; Hughes, J.M.R.; Castro-Castellon, A.T.; Norling, M.D.; Jeffers, E.S.; Rampley, C.P.N.; Read, D.S.; Horton, A.A. Modelling Microplastics in the River Thames: Sources, Sinks and Policy Implications. Water 2021, 13, 861.

AMA Style

Whitehead PG, Bussi G, Hughes JMR, Castro-Castellon AT, Norling MD, Jeffers ES, Rampley CPN, Read DS, Horton AA. Modelling Microplastics in the River Thames: Sources, Sinks and Policy Implications. Water. 2021; 13(6):861.

Chicago/Turabian Style

Whitehead, Paul G., Gianbattista Bussi, Jocelyne M.R. Hughes, Ana T. Castro-Castellon, Magnus D. Norling, Elizabeth S. Jeffers, Cordelia P.N. Rampley, Daniel S. Read, and Alice A. Horton. 2021. "Modelling Microplastics in the River Thames: Sources, Sinks and Policy Implications" Water 13, no. 6: 861.

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