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Atwood, Elizabeth C.; Falcieri, Francesco M.; Piehl, Sarah; Bochow, Mathias; Matthies, Michael; Franke, Jonas; Carniel, Sandro; Sclavo, Mauro; Laforsch, Christian; Siegert, Florian (2019): Coastal accumulation of microplastic particles emitted from the Po River, Northern Italy: Comparing remote sensing and hydrodynamic modelling with in situ sample collections. In: Marine Pollution Bulletin, Vol. 138: pp. 561-574
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Microplastic research has mainly concentrated on open seas, while riverine plumes remain largely unexplored despite their hypothesized importance as a microplastic source to coastal waters. This work aimed to model coastal accumulation of microplastic particles (1-5 mm) emitted by the Po River over 1.5 years. We posit that river-induced microplastic accumulation on adjacent coasts can be predicted using (1) hydrodynamic-based and (2) remote sensing-based modelling. Model accumulation maps were validated against sampling at nine beaches, with sediment microplastic concentrations up to 78 particles/kg (dry weight). Hydrodynamic modelling revealed that discharged particle amount is only semi-coupled to beaching rates, which are strongly mouth dependent and occur within the first ten days. Remote sensing modelling was found to better capture river mouth relative strength, and accumulation patterns were found consistent with hydrodynamic modelling. This methodology lays groundwork for developing an operational monitoring system to assess microplastic pollution emitted by a major river.