Seafloor microplastic hotspots controlled by deep-sea circulation

Although microplastics are known to pervade the global seafloor, the processes that control their dispersal and concentration in the deep sea remain largely unknown. Here, we show that thermohaline-driven currents, which build extensive seafloor sediment accumulations, can control the distribution of microplastics and create hotspots with the highest concentrations reported for any seafloor setting (190 pieces per 50 grams). Previous studies propose that microplastics are transported to the seafloor by vertical settling from surface accumulations; here, we demonstrate that the spatial distribution and ultimate fate of microplastics are strongly controlled by near-bed thermohaline currents (bottom currents). These currents are known to supply oxygen and nutrients to deep-sea benthos, suggesting that deep-sea biodiversity hotspots are also likely to be microplastic hotspots.

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71 Mo
Materials and Methods Figs. S1 to S5 Table S1 References (55–72)
193 Mo
Data S1
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How to cite
Kane Ian A., Clare Michael A., Miramontes Elda, Wogelius Roy, Rothwell James J., Garreau Pierre, Pohl Florian (2020). Seafloor microplastic hotspots controlled by deep-sea circulation. Science. 368 (6495). 1140-1145.,

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