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Freshwater Biology






Microplastics (particles <5 >mm) are commonly found in aquatic organisms across taxonomic groups and ecosystems. However, the egestion rate of microplastics from aquatic organisms and how egestion rates compare to other rates of microplastic movement in the environment are sparsely documented.We fed microplastic fibres to round gobies (Neogobius melanostomus), an abundant, invasive species in the Laurentian Great Lakes. We conducted two trials where round gobies were fed microplastic-containing food either a single time (1 day) or every day over 7 days.There was no difference in microplastic egestion rates from the 1 day or 7 day feeding trials, suggesting no impact of duration of exposure on egestion (exponential decay rate = −0.055 [±0.016 SE] and −0.040 [±0.007 SE], respectively). Turnover time of microplastics (i.e., average time from ingestion to egestion) in the gut ranged from 18.2 to 25.0 hr, similar to published values for other freshwater taxa.We also measured microplastics in the digestive tracts of round gobies collected directly from Lake Michigan, U.S.A. Using published values for round goby density and microplastic concentration at the study sites, we calculated areal egestion rate by round gobies (no. particles m–2 day–1), and compared it to riverine microplastic export (no. particles m–2 day–1). Both area-based rates were of the same order of magnitude, suggesting that round goby egestion could be an important, and potentially overlooked component of microplastic dynamics at the ecosystem scale.Animal egestion is well-known as a major component of nutrient and carbon cycling. However, direct measurements of microplastic fluxes in the environment that include animal egestion rates are uncommon. An ecosystem ecology approach is needed to meet the emerging challenge of generating microplastic budgets for freshwater environments and elsewhere, thereby informing management and mitigation of plastic pollution at a global scale.


© 2022 The Authors. Freshwater Biology published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd.

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Creative Commons Attribution-No Derivative Works 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-No Derivative Works 4.0 International License.

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