Microplastic occurrence and ecological risk assessment in the eight outlets of the Pearl River Estuary, a new insight into the riverine microplastic input to the northern South China Sea

Elsevier, Marine Pollution Bulletin, Volume 189, April 2023, 114719
Chau H.S., Xu S., Ma Y., Wang Q., Cao Y., Huang G. et al.

Estuaries are unique transition zones connecting terrestrial and coastal environments and are recognized as primary conveyors for land-derived plastics to open oceans. Riverine microplastics (MPs) have been commonly investigated using sequential sampling which might not effectively reflect the actual load. In this study, sampling at eight outlets was performed during a complete tidal cycle to estimate the MP flux to the Pearl River Estuarine (PRE) using a concurrent sampling strategy. The MP abundances ranged from 2.90 ± 0.57–5.9 ± 2.27 particles/L. A remarkable difference between tides in MP abundances suggests tidal effect should not be overlooked in assessment. The MP load through the eight outlets was estimated at 304 trillion particles or 1102 tons into the PRE annually. Additionally, similar potential ecological risk assessment among eight rivers implied that environmental threats posed by less urbanized and populated rural areas on the western side have been under-evaluating for decades.