Headline: Microplastics and nanoplastics in the marine-atmosphere environment

The discovery of atmospheric micro(nano)plastic transport and ocean–atmosphere exchange points to a highly complex marine plastic cycle, with negative implications for human and ecosystem health. Yet, observations are currently limited. In this Perspective, we quantify the processes and fluxes of the marine-atmospheric micro(nano)plastic cycle, with the aim of highlighting the remaining unknowns in atmospheric micro(nano)plastic transport. Between 0.013 and 25 million metric tons per year of micro(nano)plastics are potentially being transported within the marine atmosphere and deposited in the oceans. However, the high uncertainty in these marine-atmospheric fluxes is related to data limitations and a lack of study intercomparability. To address the uncertainties and remaining knowledge gaps in the marine-atmospheric micro(nano)plastic cycle, we propose a future global marine-atmospheric micro(nano)plastic observation strategy, incorporating novel sampling methods and the creation of a comparable, harmonized and global data set. Together with long-term observations and intensive investigations, this strategy will help to define the trends in marine-atmospheric pollution and any responses to future policy and management actions.

Publication Year
Publication Type
Academic Articles

Allen, D., Allen, S., Abbasi, S., Baker, A., Bergmann, M., Brahney, J., Butler, T. M., Duce, R. A., Eckhardt, S., Evangeliou, N., Jickells, T., Kanakidou, M., Kershaw, P., Laj, P., Levermore, J., Li, D., Liss, P., Liu, K., Mahowald, N., Masque, P., Materić, D., Mayes, A. G., McGinnity, P., Osvath, I., Prather, K. A., Prospero, J. M., Revell, L. E., Sander, S. G., Shim, W. J., Slade, J., Stein, A., Tarasova, O., & Wright, S. (2022). Microplastics and nanoplastics in the marine-atmosphere environment. Nature Reviews Earth & Environment. doi:10.1038/s43017-022-00292-x.

Staff involved