Microplastics’ Pollution and Risk Assessment in an Urban River: A Case Study in the Yongjiang River, Nanning City, South China

  • Xin Zhang
  • Yifei Leng
  • Xiaoning Liu
  • Kai HuangEmail author
  • Jun WangEmail author
Original Research


Microplastics (MPs) have been considered as a global environmental problem threatening the ecological security. However, studies on MPs’ pollution in freshwaters and the associated risk assessment remain limited in the literature. In this study, the concentrations, distributions, and the potential ecological risks of MPs were analyzed in Yongjiang River, which is an important drinking water source flowing through Nanning City, the mega city of China. The MPs’ abundances in surface waters and sediments ranged from 500 to 7700 n/m3 and from 90 to 550 n/kg, respectively. Spatial distribution highlighted the significant impact of anthropogenic activity on the MPs’ accumulation. Polyethylene and polypropylene were the most common polymer compositions investigated. Shape, size, and color were examined to analyze the characteristics of MPs in the river. To assess the ecological risk of MPs, the predicted no-effect concentration (PNEC) values were derived from a species’ sensitivity distribution model based on the toxicity data of MPs for freshwater species available in the literature. The PNEC for MPs in surface water was derived to be 4920 n/m3. Risk assessment results through risk quotient (RQ) method suggest that most of the monitored sites in Yongjiang River posed negligible risks to freshwater biota, except the two sites with high risk in the urban center. The results provided a basis for ecological risk assessment of MPs in freshwaters.


Microplastics (MPs) Yongjiang River Drinking water source Ecological risk assessment Species sensitivity distribution (SSD) 



This work was supported jointly by the Funding Project of Sino-Africa Joint Research Center, Chinese Academy of Sciences (Grant No. Y623321K01); the Key Laboratory of Algal Biology, Institute of Hydrobiology, Chinese Academy of Sciences (Grant No. 2017-001); the Hundred Talents Program of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (Grant No. Y329671K01); and the Natural Science Foundation of Hubei Province of China (Grant No. 2016CFB284).

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare no competing financial interest.

Supplementary material

12403_2018_296_MOESM1_ESM.docx (1 mb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 1071 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Key Laboratory of Aquatic Botany and Watershed Ecology, Wuhan Botanical GardenChinese Academy of SciencesWuhanChina
  2. 2.National Engineering Research Center for Non-Food Biorefinery, Guangxi Key Laboratory of BiorefineryGuangxi Academy of SciencesNanningChina
  3. 3.Sino-Africa Joint Research CenterChinese Academy of SciencesWuhanChina

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