Microplastics in Coastal California

Millions of tons of plastic debris are added to marine ecosystems annually and microplastic pollution is an emerging concern in these systems due to the durability of plastics, their propensity to attract other pollutants, and tendency to degrade into ingestible micro-plastics (particles or fibers <5mm). Sandy beaches accumulate ocean litter, exposing their invertebrate fauna to the hazard of debris ingestion and additional risk transfer of pollutants into the food web.

We assessed the distribution of microplastics in beach sediments and examined the rate of ingestion by filter-feeding beach infauna along 900 km of the California coast. Microplastics were ubiquitous in beach sediments and commonly found in the gut of filter-feeding Pacific mole crab (Emerita analoga) and occasionally found in the planktivorous blacksmith fish (Chromis punctipinnis). Plastic debris was also found in the gut of the barred surfperch (Amphistichus argenteus), which is a predator of Pacific mole crabs. Consumption by beach organisms provide a clear exposure pathway for plastic and adsorbed pollutants to enter marine and coastal food webs.

Recent articles and press on sandy beaches, microplastics research

Cowger et al. 2020. Reporting Guidelines to Increase the Reproducibility and Comparability of Research on Microplastics. Applied Spectroscopy. https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/0003702820930292

New Microplastic Pollution Research Reporting Guidelines Released. Seven Seas Travel Magazine: Marine Conservation and Travel Media Issue 61 – June 2020. https://sevenseasmedia.org/new-microplastic-pollution-research-reporting-guidelines-released/

Horn, D., Granek, E. F., & Steele, C. L. 2019. Effects of environmentally relevant concentrations of microplastic fibers on Pacific mole crab (Emerita analoga) mortality and reproduction. Limnology and Oceanography Letters. https://aslopubs.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/epdf/10.1002/lol2.10137

CSUCI Channel News. Guardians of the Waterways: Professor, student researchers find microplastics in harbor moon jellies. CSUCI Channel. Volume 23, Spring 2019. https://www.csuci.edu/news/channel/spring-2019/guardiansofwaterways.htm

Ventura County Star. CSUCI researchers find microplastics in Oxnard jellyfish. May 3rd, 2019. https://www.vcstar.com/story/news/2019/05/03/csu-channel-islands-microplastics-jellyfish-oxnard-harbor/3568601002/

USA Today. Research shows how pervasive microplastics are in the ocean. May 2, 2019. https://amp.usatoday.com/picture-gallery/news/2019/05/02/microplastics-ocean-research-shows-pervasive-jellyfish/3620302002/

KEYT News. Channel Islands Harbor jellyfish helping scientists understand microplastics. Apr 15, 2019. https://keyt.com/news/2019/04/15/channel-islands-harbor-jellyfish-helping-scientists-understand-microplastics/

Sacramento Bee. Capitol Alert: Tough Day for Plastic. March 21st, 2019. https://www.sacbee.com/news/politics-government/capitol-alert/article228181424.html

KEYT News. Cal State University Channel Islands applauds straw ban. September 25th, 2018. https://www.keyt.com/news/ventura-county/cal-state-university-channel-islands-applauds-straw-ban/799501515

The Guardian. ‘Great Pacific garbage patch’ sprawling with far more debris than thought. Oliver Milman. Published Mar. 22, 2018. https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/mar/22/great-pacific-garbage-patch-sprawling-with-far-more-debris-than-thought .

Ventura County Star. Plastic pollution in the ocean “an enormous problem,” says CSU Channel Islands professor. Claudia Boyd-Barrett. Published Feb. 11, 2018. https://www.vcstar.com/story/news/local/communities/ojai/2018/02/11/plastic-pollution-ocean-enormous-problem-csu-channel-islands-professor/321971002/

Channel Islands National Park. From Shore to Sea Lecture Series. September 2018. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_GDVGkDwh5k

Ojai Green Valley Coalition Earth Day 2017. Clare Steele – Ecological impacts of marine and microplastic debris on coastal ecosystems. Ojai Green Valley Coalition Earth Day 2017.

Ventura County Reporter. Plastic invasion: CSUCI researchers find microplastics have begun to infiltrate local ocean ecosystems. Chris O’Neal. Published Feb. 4, 2016  http://www.vcreporter.com/cms/story/detail/plastic_invasion/13762/

Ventura County Star. CSU Channel Islands student finds more than she expected inside sand crabs. Cheri Carlson. Published Oct. 26, 2015. http://www.vcstar.com/news/outdoors/csu-channel-islands-student-finds-more-than-she-expected-inside-sand-crabs_78425538

Ventura County Star. Researchers race clock to collect samples near spill. Megan Diskin. Published May 23, 2015. http://www.vcstar.com/news/local/researchers-race-clock-to-collect-samples-near-spill-ep-1097227525-343915822.html