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“Down by the River”: (Micro-) Plastic Pollution of Running Freshwaters with Special Emphasis on the Austrian Danube

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Abstract

The significance of rivers and streams as transport vectors of terrestrial plastic debris has long been neglected. It is now known, however, that flowing waters have high concentrations of a variety of plastics, differing in chemical composition, physical properties and size. Especially microplastics, fragments smaller than 5 mm in diameter, pose a complex risk to lotic ecosystems all over the world. Amongst other effects, these particles are ingested by various aquatic organisms, leach endocrine-disruptive compounds and act as vectors for waterborne contaminants, pathogens and alien species.

In this chapter, we track microplastic particles in running waters from their potential sources (e.g. plastic production sites, wastewater treatment plants), to their probable final sinks: the world’s oceans. En route, they potentially become ingested, colonized, collected or deposited. A plethora of peer-reviewed publications constitute the scientific background of this journey, giving insights into a current hot topic of environmental pollution research.

A case study of the River Danube is included. Pioneering research on plastic contamination in the Austrian section of the river, dealing with microplastic origin, -abundance and -input to the Black Sea, provided a prelude for a holistic examination of freshwater plastic pollution.

Keywords

Microplastics Rivers Danube Freshwater pollution 

Notes

Acknowledgments

I would like to thank Dafne Eerkes-Medrano, Alice Horton, Hannes Imhof, Hubert Keckeis and Bill Turrell for their great contribution to this chapter! As many times before, Paul Humphries significantly improved my work.

I almost didn’t finish this text, because there are three girls who continuously capture all my attention, passion and dedication.

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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.District authority Bludenz, Department of Economy and ConservationBludenzAustria

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