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Microplastic Fluxes in an Agricultural Watershed in Southeastern Minnesota

Authors: Claire Simmerman, John Baker, Pam Rice, University of Minnesota

Abstract: Plastic pollution has been linked to urban land use, but there is emerging concern surrounding other potential land uses including agriculture as sources of plastic to the environment. Plastics are widely used in agricultural settings including plastic mulch, drain tile, netting, silage bags, and seed coatings/packaging. This study examines microplastic transport via atmospheric and riverine fluxes in a major HUC-10 subwatershed of the Cannon River in Southeastern Minnesota. Depositional microplastic in aerosols and precipitation were collected using a dry/wet deposition sampler, and an automated ISCO sampler was installed near the outlet of the watershed to collect microplastic in water samples periodically. Streamflow and precipitation data were obtained from the National Water Model and the Daily Erosion Project datasets to compute compartmental fluxes to compare how much microplastic coming out of the watershed is due to internal riverine sources generated in situ, and how much is contributed through depositional external sources. Microplastics were analyzed using the Nile Red Dye method equipped with a fluorescence microscope. Discovered trends and results will be discussed.