Tracking Microplastics Across the Streambed Interface : Using Laser‐Induced‐Fluorescence to Quantitatively Analyze Microplastic Transport in an Experimental Flume
Rivers and streams are a primary transport vector for microplastics (MPs), connecting terrestrial sources to marine environments. While previous studies indicated that pore-scale MPs can accumulate in streambed sediments, the specific MPs transport and retention mechanisms in fluvial systems remain poorly understood. As part of this technical note, we present a novel method for a quantitative analysis of the spatiotemporal transport and retention of pore-scale MPs in an experimental flume. A
... tinuous mass balance for MPs in surface water was achieved using two online fluorometers, while a laser-induced Fluorescence-Imaging-System was developed to track and quantify the spatial migration of MPs through the streambed sediments. The detection limit was < 1 µg/L for 1 µm polystyrene microbeads with the fluorometers and 3 µg/L for the Fluorescence-Imaging-System. The system was able to quantitatively track the advective transfer of MPs into the streambed sediments: a process that has yet not been observed experimentally. Results showed that MPs infiltrated into the streambed sediments up to a depth twice the bedform amplitude. This work provides a novel experimental method to quantitatively monitor MP transport through porous media and advective exchange of MP across the streambed interface.