OUC Made New Progress in Research on Microplastic Pollution in Water

The research team led by Prof. Zhao Jian from the Institute of Nearshore Environmental Pollution Control at OUC, has made significant advancements in microplastic pollution. The research, titled Microplastic fragmentation by rotifers in aquatic ecosystems contributes to global nanoplastic pollution, has been published in the prestigious international journal Nature Nanotechnology.

This study reveals a novel pathway for the rapid release of nanoplastics mediated by zooplankton. Rotifers, a widely distributed group of zooplankton globally, were found for the first time to generate microplastic fragments and nanoplastics during the ingestion of microplastics of different materials and aging degrees. Using advanced techniques such as confocal microscopy, hyperspectral analysis, and Raman-scanning electron microscopy, the study elucidates that the grinding action of rotifer mandibles is the primary mechanism for nanoplastic production. Quantitative analysis indicates that a single marine rotifer can produce 3.48×105 nanoplastics per day through grinding. It is noteworthy that there is a high geographical overlap between microplastics and rotifers in global water bodies, and microplastics were detected in rotifers collected from all marine and freshwater sites, underscoring the global occurrence of rotifer ingestion and fragmentation of microplastics. This newly identified pathway for nanoplastic release, discovered for the first time, will provide crucial support for accurately assessing the lifecycle of microplastics in aquatic environments and predicting the global flux of nanoplastics.