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Investigations of plastic contamination of seawater, marine and coastal sediments in the Russian seas: a review


Twelve seas with an integral coastline length of about 38,000 km wash upon the Russian coasts. They belong to the basins of the Atlantic, the Arctic, and the Pacific Oceans and stretch over temperate, subpolar, and polar climate zones. This review of 32 studies published between 2015 and August 2020 analyses the available peer-reviewed scientific publications related to the topic of plastic contamination. At present, plastic contamination of the marine environments is confirmed by field investigations in 7 out of 12 Russian seas. Pollution levels vary widely: from 0.6 to 336,000 items/m3 for microplastics in water and from 1.3 to 10,179 items/kg (DW)—in sediments, while median macroplastics abundance is around 1.0 item/m2 at the coast. One monitoring survey of the Barents Sea reported mean macroplastics concentration in the upper 60 m as 0.011 mg/m3 and 2.9 kg/km2 at the sea floor. The identification of the polymer types with spectroscopy techniques is performed only in 9 studies (28%); most researchers use visual identification which makes the results difficult to compare. Most projects aimed at the plastic contamination research use their own collection and extraction methods that poorly agree with other studies. Since the pollution levels in most of the areas are relatively low, sampling is inhomogeneous in space and time. The most extensively studied areas are the beaches of the Baltic Sea, while the least examined is the Arctic region. Our study highlights the need for a discussion on harmonizing sampling methodology and identification techniques among different studies.

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Fig. 1

Data Availability

The datasets analysed during the current study are available from the authors of the reviewed publications (see “References” section).







Polyethylene terephthalate/Polyester




Cellulose/Cellulose acetate


Polyvinyl chloride




Methyl vinyl ether


Polymer methylpentene






Poly(methyl 2-methylpropenoate)




Polyolefin elastomers


Ethylene-propylene-diene monomer




Polyamide (nylon)




Phenolic resins


Polyterpene resins


Synthetic dye






Dry weight


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This work is a part of the joint Indo-Russian research project, entitled ‘Identification and modelling of microplastics transport in the coastal areas under the influence of dominant wind patterns’. We thank Dr. Vladimir Mukhanov for assistance with preparation of the revised manuscript.


This work has been funded by Department of Science and Technology (DST) through the Grant INT/RUS/RFBR/P-339 (in India: RV) and Russian Foundation for Basic Research (RFBR) through Grant RFBR No.18-55-45024 (in Russia: AB, DL, LV). A contribution made by EE and ICh was made within the framework of the State Assignment No 0128-2021-12 of the Shrishov Institute of Oceanology RAS. An extra contribution made by AB in 2021 is supported by the State Assignment No 0555-2021-0005.

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AB and SV conceived the study; AB and EE reviewed the literature; DL, EE, and LV collected the data and prepared the tables; EE provided the expertise on the Baltic Sea studies; SV provided the expertise on synthetic polymers analysis methods; AB wrote the primary manuscript and prepared the figures; IC, SV, and RV provided their expertise, reviewed the manuscript, and contributed to the Conclusions Section.

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Correspondence to Andrei Bagaev.

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Bagaev, A., Esiukova, E., Litvinyuk, D. et al. Investigations of plastic contamination of seawater, marine and coastal sediments in the Russian seas: a review. Environ Sci Pollut Res 28, 32264–32281 (2021).

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  • Microplastics
  • Plastic contamination
  • Marine litter
  • Russia
  • Atlantic Ocean
  • Arctic Ocean
  • Pacific Ocean