Modeling Microplastic Transport in the Marine Environment: Testing Empirical Models of Particle Terminal Sinking Velocity for Irregularly Shaped Particles

Róisín Coyle*, Matthew Service, Ursula Witte, Gary Hardiman, Jennifer McKinley

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)
9 Downloads (Pure)

Abstract

Microplastic (mP) pollution has been indicated as an area of concern in the marine environment. However, there is no consensus on their potential to cause significant ecological harm, and a comprehensive risk assessment of mP pollution is unattainable due to gaps in our understanding of their transport, uptake, and exchange processes. This research considers drag models that have been proposed to calculate the terminal settling velocity of regularly and irregularly shaped particles to assess their applicability in a mP modeling context. The evaluation indicates three models that predict the settling velocity of mPs to a high precision and suggests that an explicit model is the most appropriate for implementation in a mP transport model. This research demonstrates that the mP settling velocity does not vary significantly over time and depth relevant to the scale of an ocean model and that the terminal settling velocity is independent of the initial particle velocity. These findings contribute toward efforts to simulate the vertical transport of mPs in the ocean, which will improve our understanding of the residence time of mPs in the water column and subsequently their availability for uptake into the marine ecosystem.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)984-995
Number of pages11
JournalACS ES and T Water
Volume3
Issue number4
Early online date22 Mar 2023
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 14 Apr 2023

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by the Natural Environment Research Council under the Queen’s University Belfast and the University of Aberdeen Doctoral Research and Training Doctoral Training Partnership (QUADRAT DTP).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023 The Authors. Published by American Chemical Society.

Keywords

  • drag coefficient
  • irregular particles
  • microplastic vertical transport
  • microplastics
  • settling velocity
  • transport modeling

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