Meso- and microplastic distribution and spatial connections to heavy metal contaminations in highly cultivated and urbanised floodplain soilscapes – a case study from the Nidda River (Germany)
Abstract. Floodplain soilscapes act as temporary sinks in the environment and are nowadays affected by multiple contaminant accumulations and exposures, including heavy metals and (micro-)plastics. Despite increasing knowledge of the occurrence and behaviour of (micro-)plastics at the interface between aquatic and terrestrial systems, there are still major uncertainties about the spatial distribution of plastics, their sources and deposition, as well as spatial relationships with other contaminants. Our recent case study addresses these questions, using the example of a river system ranging from rural to urban areas. Based on a geospatial sampling approach we obtained data about soil properties, heavy metal contents via ICP-MS analyses, and particle-based (171 µm–52 mm) plastic contents, analysed using sodium chloride density separation, visual fluorescence identification and ATR-FTIR analysis. We found plastic contents of 0.00–35.82 p kg−1 and heavy metal enrichment (Enrichment factor 1.1–5.9). Levels of both contaminations occur in the lower range of known concentrations and show a different spatial distribution along the river course and in the floodplain cross-section. Furthermore, we found that plastic enrichment occurs in the uppermost soil layers, while heavy metal enrichment is located at greater depths, indicating different sources and deposition periods. Finally, direct short to long-term anthropogenic impacts, like floodplain restoration or tillage may affect plastic enrichments, raising questions for future floodplain management.
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