Microplastic distribution in surface sediments along the Spanish Mediterranean continental shelf
Microplastics (MPs) are widely recognised as a contaminant of emerging concern in the marine environment. This work provides original data of the presence of MPs in coastal sediments along the Spanish Mediterranean continental shelf. Ten surface sediment samples were collected in order to document baseline microplastic distribution from Algeciras to Barcelona. Microplastics were extracted from bulk sediments by density separation. The number of microplastics per kilogramme of dry weight ranged from 45.9±23.9 MPs/kgd.w. observed at Palma de Mallorca to 280.3±164.9 MPs/kgd.w. noted at Málaga, with an average value of 113.2±88.9 MPs/kgd.w. The lower limit is defined by the pore filter size used (1.2μm). For all analysed locations, the dominant microplastic type was fibres (82.9%), followed by fragments, and the main colours were transparent and blue. Microplastic size distribution was presented; in the case of fragments, 85% was lower than 0.5 mm, and in the case of fibres, the three studied intervals (0.5–1, 1–2, 2–5 mm) had similar distribution (35, 34 and 31%, respectively). Attending to all available data, no statistically significant relationship (Spearman’s correlation) was found between microplastic average size and distance to the coast, the depth, density population and sediment grain size. Neither relationship was observed between these variables and microplastic concentration using the non-parametric Kruskal-Wallis H test. This study has confirmed the widespread distribution of MPs in surface sediments from the Spanish Mediterranean continental shelf, and these data are useful to define baselines for MPs in the Western Mediterranean region.