Water Resources Research Act Program

Details for Project ID 2018NJ395B

Extent and effects of microplastic contamination in New Jersey lakes

Institute: New Jersey
Year Established: 2018 Start Date: 2018-03-01 End Date: 2019-02-28
Total Federal Funds: $18,905 Total Non-Federal Funds: $37,810

Principal Investigators: Aaron Stoler

Abstract: Microplastics (MPs) are plastic particles <5 mm in size and have been detected in marine and freshwater ecosystems across the world. They originate from a variety of sources and have varying chemistry. MPs can bioaccumulate through the food chain, and are well-known to absorb organic contaminants (e.g,. pesticides). Ingestion of MPs by aquatic consumers has been linked to physical disruption of the intestinal wall, altered foraging behavior, reduced assimilation efficiency, tumor development, and mortality. As such, MPs are an emergent threat to natural ecosystems and human health. However, detailed and regional assessments of MP in inland freshwater systems are lacking, particularly among lakes that serve as sources of drinking water, recreation, and food. Moreover, we lack an understanding of the ecological effects of MPs in freshwater environments Here, I propose a state-wide survey of MPs in the benthic and pelagic regions of freshwater lakes in New Jersey, including lakes spanning a range of uses and surrounding human densities. In addition, I propose a controlled outdoor mesocosm study that explores the effects of MP contamination on artificial lake communities. In this latter study, I will explore the effects of six different MP types at two different densities that are representative of the mean and maximum MP densities found in the Great Lakes. This proposal will produce at least two peer-reviewed papers, train four undergraduate students, engage several classrooms in MP surveys, and provide the impetus to initiate a broader research program focused on MPs in lake ecosystems.