Exploring local and landscape drivers of plastic abundance in urban lake zones



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Microplastics (i.e., particles <5-mm) are a growing environmental concern because of their widespread use. Microplastics have a range of variable properties (e.g., sources, particle shapes, density) which may impact their transport and accumulation in the environment. Urban waterbodies are composed of different zones that may accumulate plastic pollution in differing magnitudes due to the properties of plastics and the varying forces acting on them. Here, I examined the composition and particle density (#/ m2; #/ L1) of plastic particles in four lake zones (upland vegetation, shoreline sediments, benthic lake sediments, surface water) of small urban lakes (n = 20) in Lubbock, Texas. Plastic number density varied significantly among forms (fragments > films > nurdles) and zones (benthos > shoreline > upland vegetation). Using Akaike Information Criterion, I evaluated a set of candidate models that included several local and landscape variables to explain patterns of plastics among different lake zones. I found several local features (e.g., shoreline macroplastic litter, water conductivity, lake area) and broader landscape features (e.g., network position, impervious surface) had importance when explaining observed patterns of plastic number density in the varying lake zones. Support for some variables changed depending on zone and plastic form, suggesting properties of plastics may influence patterns of number density. Moreover, the presence of large plastic trash consistently predicted plastic particles. Education, outreach, and improved trash collection may be the key to mitigating plastic pollution in urban lakes.

Embargo status: Restricted until 06/2024. To request the author grant access, click on the PDF link to the left.



plastic, urban lakes, microplastics, ecology