PLAWES

PLAWES

Microplastic Contamination in the Weser- Wadden Sea – National Park Model System: an Ecosystem-Wide Approach
Coordinator

Prof. Dr. Christian Laforsch
University of Bayreuth
Chair of Animal Ecology I / UBT
Universitätsstraße 30
95447 Bayreuth
Phone: +49 921 / 55-2651
e-mail: christian.laforsch@uni-bayreuth.de


Dr. Gunnar Gerdts
Alfred Wegener Institute
Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research (AWI)
Kurpromenade
27498 Helgoland
Phone: +49 4725 / 819-3245
e-mail: gunnar.gerdts@awi.de

Duration Period
September 2017
August 2020
Description

In PLAWES, the modelling system of the German national park Weser-Wadden Sea is the first large European river basin that is investigated in detail regarding its microplastic pollution to. PLAWES will conduct a pioneering study of the microplastic contamination from the headwaters to the North Sea (northern Atlantic Ocean) that comprises an interdisciplinary and integrated ecosystem approach and accounts for various point sources (wastewater treatment plants, separation systems) and diffuse sources (drainage, atmosphere) of pollution. The results are integrated into a model for identifying primary transport mechanisms and accumulation zones. The research will investigate the effects of microplastics on ecosystems in the Weser-Wadden Sea system by analysing the interaction of microplastic with pathogens in biofilm and aquatic invertebrates. Outcomes of this particularly ecologically relevant aspects will be used to estimate the environmental risk of microplastics for the model system, and subsequently make it transferable to other systems. In addition, the results of the analysis will become part of new teaching materials in order to provide a knowledge platform for teachers, students, and parents across Europe. PLAWES will generate unique data about the effects of microplastics on a large European river basin and its environment. This will be significant not only for policymakers and stakeholders but also as a fundament for science-based solutions to address the microplastics problem.

Main areas of work

  • Microplastics in the Weser-Wadden Sea
  • Model-based balancing of diffuse and point sources of microplastic entries
  • Interaction of microplastics with pathogens and biota
  • Training measures to raise awareness of plastic waste

WP 0 Management, communication and dissemination

Contact person
Prof. Dr. Christian Laforsch, University of Bayreuth, Universitätsstraße 30, 95447 Bayreuth, e-mail: christian.laforsch@uni-bayreuth.de

Project partner
AWI

Short description
WP 0 ensures the targeted and efficient support of the consortium with regard to project management, communication and dissemination. WP 0 coordinates both the public relations work and the exploitation of the results achieved. WP 0 continues to coordinate the cooperation of all project partners and is therefore in close contact with all project partners. WP 0 coordinates the harmonisation with the joint research project MicroCatch_Balt with regard to sampling and processing, modelling, public relations, and data storage as well as communication with the other projects.

WP 1 Microplastics in the Weser-Wadden Sea model system

Contact person
Dr. Gunnar Gerdts, Alfred Wegener Institute, Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research, Kurpromenade, 27498 Helgoland, e-mail: gunnar.gerdts@awi.de

Project partner
UBT, UOld

Short description
The aim of WP 1 is to investigate the entire Weser river system into coastal waters with regard to microplastic pollution. The final determination of the exact sampling points is carried out taking into account the real data required for RAUMISmGROWA- MePhos and "Tidal Model" (WP 3). The entire Weser including the Lower Weser and the Wadden Sea will be investigated with regard to exposure to microplastic. Two campaigns are planned at different seasons with different water conditions on the Weser.

WP 2 Entry points – point sources and diffuse entry

Contact person
Prof. Dr. Andreas Held, University of Bayreuth, BayCEER; second affiliation: Technical University of Berlin, Department of Environmental Chemistry and Air Pollution Control, Straße des 17. Juni 135, 10623 Berlin, e-mail: held@tu-berlin.de

Project partner
AWI

Short description
The aim of WP 2 is an exemplary consideration of the input paths for microplastics by investigation of important point sources such as wastewater treatment plants and separation water sewer systems as well as the diffuse input from drains and atmosphere. For this purpose, selected sampling points in the Weser river basin are characterised taking into account different landscape areas and land use types. The focus is on quantifying the entry points of microplastics. Sampling is synchronised with the campaigns at the Weser.

WP 3 Model-based accounting of diffuse and point-shaped MP entries

Contact person
Prof. Dr. Frank Wendland, Jülich Research Centre IBG-3, Wilhelm-Johnen-Straße, 52428 Jülich, e-mail: f.wendland@fz-juelich.de

Project partner
TI, NLWKN

Short description
The aim is a spatially resolved quantification of the microplastic emissions from diffuse and point sources and the identification of spatial load centres and accumulation zones within the river basin and estuary. The microplastic entries are modelled from different types of diffuse entry points and point sources. The work is based on the models mGROWA, MEPhos, RAUMIS, as well as a transport modelling considering the estuarine hydro- and sediment dynamics. Within the framework of the project, the model chain will be improved in a targeted manner according to microplastic entry modelling in the inland and the further distribution of the microplastics in the lower reaches, estuary and apron.

WP 4 Interaction of microplastic with pathogens and biota

Contact person
Prof. Dr. Jörg Oehlmann, Goethe University Frankfurt, Max-von-Laue-Straße 13, 60438 Frankfurt am Main, e-mail: oehlmann@bio.uni-frankfurt.de

Project partner
AWI, UBT, UOld

Short description
In WP 4, the ecosystem effects of microplastic on the Weser-Wadden Sea model system are described on the basis of the two ecologically relevant aspects "Interaction with pathogens and antimicrobial resistance" and "Interaction with aquatic invertebrates".

Interaction with pathogens and antimicrobial resistance: Since biofilms are sites of increased genetic exchange and increased antimicrobial resistance occurs below wastewater treatment plants, plastics could not only contribute to the dispersion of pathogenic organisms, but also of resistance genes. The consequences of such a transfer are currently unknown. AWI will therefore use molecular microbial source tracking techniques (DNA/RNA arrays for the detection of pathogenic bacteria, viruses, protozoa and virulence/resistance genes) to investigate plastic samples from the Weser region. Interaction with aquatic invertebrates: In order to generate exposure data, different mollusk species are applied in situ in the Weser, the tidal area and the Wadden Sea. Absorbed microplastic is examined in the digestive tract and in tissue samples and confirmed in parallel by pyrolysis-GC-MS and spectroscopic methods. Historical mussel samples (since 1986) from the Federal Environmental Specimen Bank (UBA) are examined using pyrolysis-GC-MS. The chronic toxicity of microplastic is characterised in laboratory experiments with mussels and worms. Different polymers are conditioned in situ and toxicologically characterised in chronic exposure experiments.

WP 5 Training measures to raise awareness of plastic waste

Contact person
Prof. Dr. Franz X. Bogner, University of Bayreuth, Didactics of Biology, Universitätsstraße 30, 95447 Bayreuth, e-mail: franz.bogner@uni-bayreuth.de

Project partner
AWI, UOld

Short description
In addition to the ethical assessment skills of students, WP 5 will incorporate existing individual environmental knowledge. Innovative teaching materials with a sound reference to everyday life are evaluated for a holistic understanding regarding the burden of plastics in the model system and disseminated via an Internet teaching/learning portal. Within the work package, UBT provides a handbook for teachers and "public relations workers".

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