Model exploration of microplastic effects on zooplankton grazing reveal potential impacts on the global carbon cycle - Université de Bretagne Occidentale Access content directly
Journal Articles Environmental Research Letters Year : 2024

Model exploration of microplastic effects on zooplankton grazing reveal potential impacts on the global carbon cycle

Abstract

Amongst the increasing number of anthropogenic stress factors threatening ocean equilibrium, microplastics (MP; < 5 mm) have emerged as particularly worrisome. In situ observations have shown that MP accumulate in large areas at the surface ocean where it may threaten the functioning marine species. In particular, experimental evidence has shown that the grazing rates of several zooplankton species may be significantly altered by MP. These direct impacts on zooplankton may alter nutrient and carbon cycling. However, how these laboratory results may translate into impacts on the global ocean is yet unknown. Here, we use a global coupled physical-biogeochemical model including MP (NEMO/PISCES-PLASTIC) to investigate the impacts of MP exposure on zooplankton grazing rates. Drawing from experimental results, we use varying water contamination impact thresholds to explore the biogeochemical consequences of MP impacts on short (10 years) and long timescales (100 years). Our simulations show that the geographical extent of MP impacts on zooplankton remains restricted to about 10% of the global ocean surface, even after 100 years of constant MP contamination. However, in the most contaminated regions (e.g. the sub-tropical gyres), [MP] has surged from a few mg m −3 to > 50 mg m −3 . Despite their oligotrophic nature and limited contribution to the overall ocean carbon cycle, MP impacts on zooplankton grazing could disrupt carbon cycling in these highly contaminated regions (up to 50% reduction in yearly primary production, carbon export fluxes and organic matter remineralisation after 100 years). Our research suggests that persistent MP pollution in the ocean could diminish primary production by 4%. In spite of the large sensitivity of our results to the water contamination impact threshold, we suggest MP impacts on zooplankton grazing may cause an annual loss of 1 Gt yr −1 of exported carbon after 100 years, if MP inputs remain constant globally.
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hal-04628031 , version 1 (28-06-2024)

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Camille Richon, Thomas Gorgues, Matthew Cole, Ika Paul-Pont, Christophe Maes, et al.. Model exploration of microplastic effects on zooplankton grazing reveal potential impacts on the global carbon cycle. Environmental Research Letters, 2024, 19 (7), pp.074031. ⟨10.1088/1748-9326/ad5195⟩. ⟨hal-04628031⟩
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