Modelling 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)
41 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 modelling 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. The research demonstrates that 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 towards 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 pages12
JournalACS ES&T Water
Volume3
Issue number4
Early online date22 Mar 2023
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 14 Apr 2023

Keywords

  • Microplastics
  • Transport Modelling
  • Settling Velocity
  • Drag Coefficient
  • Irregular Particles
  • Microplastic Vertical Transport
  • Empirical Models

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Environmental Science
  • Civil and Structural Engineering
  • Water Science and Technology
  • Pollution

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