Microbeads in Sediment, Dreissenid Mussels, and Anurans in the Littoral Zone of the Upper St. Lawrence River, New York.

Document Type: Original Research Paper


Department of Environmental Studies, St. Lawrence University, Canton, New York, 13617 United States of America


Global plastic production has exceeded 300 million tons per year (Plastics Europe, 2015). In the marine and freshwater environments, larger plastics abrade and photo-degrade resulting in persistent environmental microplastics that are not effectively removed by existing wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs). The ecological effects of microplastics on the marine environment are poorly understood, with even less attention to freshwater systems. To assess whether microplastics have infiltrated food webs of shallow nearshore ecosystems of the St. Lawrence River, we sampled four sites along the international section of the St. Lawrence River, from Alexandria Bay to Waddington, NY. Twelve sediment samples along with one hundred and forty-nine Dreissenid mussels (Dreissena polymorpha and D. bugensis) were collected from the littoral zone, and forty one road-killed anuran amphibian specimens were collected adjacent to the river.  Sediment subsamples at two of four sediment sampling sites contained plastic micro-particles. No microbeads were detected within any of the Dreissenid mussels or anuran digestive tract samples. The Dreissenids were likely too small to ingest microbeads greater than 35 microns. Microplastics congregating in the littoral zone may pose a threat within the food web through potential ingestion, requiring further methodological development. 


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