Microplastics on Sandy Beaches and Coastal Dunes

Theme: Environmental Hazards & Pollution

Primary Supervisor:

Andreas Baas

Department of Geography, KCL

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Secondary Supervisor:

Neil Rose

Geography, UCL

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Project Description:

Microplastics impact marine and terrestrial ecology and may pose a serious public health hazard when airborne, yet very little is known about their presence and wind-blown transport in the subaerial coastal zone, which in many parts of the world provides high-value ecosystem services. This PhD project aims to determine, for the first time, the exposure and connectivity of microplastics on sandy beaches and coastal dune systems subject to dispersal by wind.
The project involves:
1) fieldwork to sample sediment at several major beach-dune complexes around the UK (covering varying tidal ranges and wind regimes),
2) laboratory work with the latest model Fourier Transform InfraRed (FTIR) microscope system, to detect and measure concentrations of all the major types of microplastics,
3) laboratory work for Pb-210 dating of depth profile samples from coastal dunes,
4) field experiments to measure in-situ transport of microplastics by wind from the beach into coastal dunes.

Policy Impact of Research:

There currently exists no information on the abundance and mobility of microplastics on UK beaches and coastal dunes, so this project will address a fundamental science and policy gap. The findings from this work will have immediate relevance to the practical management and mitigation of microplastic release and dispersal from beaches into the coastal environment, as well as their impact on coastal ecology.

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