Micro- and mesoplastics in the surface waters of the Finike (Anaximander) Seamounts in the eastern Mediterranean

Micro- and mesoplastics in the surface waters of the Finike (Anaximander) Seamounts in the eastern Mediterranean

Ülgen Aytan, Yasemen Şentürk, Andre Valente

ORCID IDs: U.A. 0000-0002-6530-3083; Y.S. 0000-0001-8292-399X; A.V.0000-0002-8789-7038

Department of Marine Biology, Recep Tayyip Erdogan University, Rize, TÜRKİYE
AIR Centre – Atlantic International Research Centre, Parque de Ciência e Tecnologia da Ilha Terceira, 9700-702 Angra do Heroísmo, PORTUGAL


Micro- (< 5mm) and mesoplastic (5- 25mm) pollution is reported for the surface waters of the Finike (Anaximander) Seamounts, which is a high sea marine protected area in the eastern Mediterranean Sea. Samples were collected from surface waters with plankton nets during two research cruises in May and September 2021. Plastics were physically and chemically characterized using optical microscopy and FT-IR. Microplastics were the most common size range, comprising 79% and 68% of the total plastic particles collected in May and September, respectively. Microplastic concentrations varied from 0.78×104 to 73.9×104 par.km-2 (mean 19.2×104 ± 26.7×104 par.km-2) and 0.13×104 to 60.9×104 par.km-2 (mean 13.0×104 ± 26.7×104 par.km-2) in May and September, respectively. In both cruises, microplastics were mostly fragments in shape, transparent in colour and 2-5mm in size. Regarding mesoplastics, their concentrations ranged from 0.13×104 to 16.7×104 par.km-2 (mean 5.19×104 ± 6.38×104 par.km-2) and 0.13×104 to 28.7×104 par.km-2 (mean 6.09×104 ± 12.6×104 par.km-2) in May and September, respectively. Mesoplastics were mainly films in shape and transparent in colour. FT-IR analysis revealed that the most abundant polymers were low-density polymers polyethylene (69%), followed by polypropylene (18%). Results show that plastics are ubiquitous in the Finike Seamounts area. This is a cause for concern regarding the health of the ecosystem in this marine protected area and highlights the urgent need to develop solutions for the problem of plastic pollution in the Mediterranean Sea. Data provided by the present study serve as a baseline for future environmental assessments in the region and supports the implementation of directives and strategies for long-term conservation and reduction of plastic pollution in the marine environment.

Keywords: Microplastic, mesoplastic, pollution, MSFD, Mediterranean Sea, Finike Seamounts (Anaximander)

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