Microplastics Research in Long Island Sound


Plastic waste material is accumulating rapidly in freshwater and marine environments throughout the world. Urbanized watersheds, such as Long Island Sound, are particularly vulnerable.
Because of physical degradation and exposure to light, these plastics can become transformed into various microplastics – at their largest – barely visible to the human eye.

As part of the UConn Partnership with the Greenwich Shellfish Commission and Greenwich Conservation Commission, UCONN scientists are addressing this issue by documenting the distribution of these microplastics in a number of harbors in waters of Long-Island Sound. In addition, they are quantifying the extent to which these microplastics are “physical attractors” for a suite of pollutants such as pesticides, heavy metals, and PCBs.

These microplastics, as well as associated pollutants, can impair the growth, development, or reproduction of aquatic organisms such as oysters and clams, and could seriously affect the health of the vibrant aquaculture industry along the Connecticut coast including Greenwich waters.

This project can be envisioned as the first of a regular series of “check ups” concerning the health of Long Island Sound, planned by the Greenwich/UCONN partnership. If the distribution and abundance of microplastics are large, and they concentrate significant quantities of other pollutants, then additional efforts should be mobilized to understand the consequences of these biocides to species of concern, and to design steps to reduce or mitigate their presence in Long Island Sound.

This research is being supported by the Town of Greenwich and UConn’s Center for Environmental Sciences & Engineering, and is an integral part of the Partnership’s continuing dedication to ensuring the long-term sustainability and ecological health of Greenwich’s natural resources.

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