Environmental Science and Pollution Research

, Volume 26, Issue 21, pp 21264–21273 | Cite as

Microplastic distribution in surface sediments along the Spanish Mediterranean continental shelf

  • Ana Virginia FilgueirasEmail author
  • Jesús Gago
  • Juan Antonio Campillo
  • Víctor Manuel León
Research Article


Microplastics (MPs) are widely recognised as a contaminant of emerging concern in the marine environment. This work provides original data of the presence of MPs in coastal sediments along the Spanish Mediterranean continental shelf. Ten surface sediment samples were collected in order to document baseline microplastic distribution from Algeciras to Barcelona. Microplastics were extracted from bulk sediments by density separation. The number of microplastics per kilogramme of dry weight ranged from 45.9 ± 23.9 MPs/kg d.w. observed at Palma de Mallorca to 280.3 ± 164.9 MPs/kg d.w. noted at Málaga, with an average value of 113.2 ± 88.9 MPs/kg d.w. The lower limit is defined by the pore filter size used (1.2 μm). For all analysed locations, the dominant microplastic type was fibres (82.9%), followed by fragments, and the main colours were transparent and blue. Microplastic size distribution was presented; in the case of fragments, 85% was lower than 0.5 mm, and in the case of fibres, the three studied intervals (0.5–1, 1–2, 2–5 mm) had similar distribution (35, 34 and 31%, respectively). Attending to all available data, no statistically significant relationship (Spearman’s correlation) was found between microplastic average size and distance to the coast, the depth, density population and sediment grain size. Neither relationship was observed between these variables and microplastic concentration using the non-parametric Kruskal-Wallis H test. This study has confirmed the widespread distribution of MPs in surface sediments from the Spanish Mediterranean continental shelf, and these data are useful to define baselines for MPs in the Western Mediterranean region.


Microplastics Surface sediment Spanish Mediterranean continental shelf Distribution μFTIR 



This research has been supported by the Spanish Inter-Ministerial Science and Technology Commission through the “IMPACTA” project (CICYT, CTM2013-48194-C3-1-R), “BASEMAN” project (PCIN-2015170-CO2-02), “2-2 ESMARME” project and by the European Union through the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF).

The authors would like to thank the crew and scientists of F.P. Navarro (Spanish Institute of Oceanography) for providing assistance with sampling. Their hard work and contribution were of great worth to this research. We are also grateful to the participants of COMU for their assistance in sample collection.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Instituto Español de Oceanografía (IEO)Centro Oceanográfico de VigoVigoSpain
  2. 2.Instituto Español de Oceanografía (IEO)Centro Oceanográfico de MurciaMurciaSpain

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